Dopamine Nation – About A Book – Or More?

Introduction

Unlike some of the recent blog entries here, including the previous, this is about the world within. Or is it?

OMG, he is getting philosophical again.” I will do my best to limit it. But I need a conduit into why I want to write about a book which I read recently: Dopamine Nation (Dopamine nation: finding balance in the age of indulgence / Anna Lembke, M.D., 2021, ISBN 9781524746728 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781524746735 (ebook)).

Neurophysiology is part of science. Neuroscience is scientific research aiming to understand the inner workings of the brain. That includes the human brain, the most complex entity that we know about in the Universe. No superstition here: There may be, and I believe there are, more complex entities in the Universe, whatever the Universe is. But our knowledge about the Universe is extremely local, and extremely limited along the temporal dimension as well. In this corner of this Universe, and now, our own brain is the most complex composite physical entity that we know about. Its complexity pales everything else. I highly recommend, as I have done before, David Eagleman’s popular science book “The Brain“. I love it, my children loved it, and the TV series “The Brain” (PBS Documentary, 2015, available on Apple TV) with which David Eagleman stunningly transformed his book into a highly enjoyable visual companion to the book is still relevant, and thoroughly enlightening.

The brain is made from neurons and from other matter. The uniqueness of the human brain sits with that a stunning number of, give or take, 100 billion neurons are forming a highly complex neuronal network. Connected with sophisticated sensory input devices, having a plethora of means to communicate, and being able to steer the body and to contribute to regulate the inner functions of this larger entity we call “our body”, the combined result is much more than a walking and talking biological robot: Self-awareness and the emergence of a persona, in my case “Stefan Feller”, are amongst the results of these inner workings.

Describing it this way allows me to stay away from the philosophical, or spiritual, part. Whilst this part is extremely important to me personally, I can draw a line excluding the question whether this emerging persona is all there is. I will leave it with one thought by pointing to what some refer to as a “soul”, others may name it a “consciousness”, and as to which extent this is only specific for humans, or also true for other living beings, or even beyond, for everything there is. That’s where belief plays a role, inner perception and introspection kicks in, and a whole bunch of belief systems and dogmatic approaches may include deterministic, agnostic, spiritual, or religious explanations for “what there is”. I’m sorry to say, but fanatism starts in this realm, too. That’s part of my other blog entries.

Notwithstanding whether this “walking and talking biological robot” has only a persona, or is also a temporary seat for a soul, one fact is part of neuroscience: That physical processes govern this brain, and that chemical substances are key in not only how the brain works on a biological level, but also how this “resulting persona” is composed, how this persona is able to contribute to the complex equilibrium making this a healthy body, hosting a healthy mind, being part of a healthy “super structure”, meaning a community, a society, a culture, a nation (as the title of the book suggests).

What I want to say: The brain plays an important role by, so to speak, being the “home base” for my identity. Therefore,“Stefan Feller” and how this construct perceives, interprets, acts, reacts, thinks, or not, feels, and how, all that is highly dependent on chemistry. Dopamine is a chemical substance.

Neuroscience increasingly contributes to understanding how human beings perceive, regulate, act, react, are motivated, are functional, less functional, dysfunctional, are mentally sane, sometimes not, or less, and so much more. Neuroscience is able to contribute to important questions such as how to achieve happiness. On an individual level, and on a societal level.

And that is where I wanted to arrive, after so many times re-phrasing my writing, at the end of this introduction: The way how chemical substances produced by, and used by, the body and the brain, and how they are part of complex inner regulative systems ensuring stability, sanity, healthiness, and happiness, of body and mind, by extension they have a profound impact on the health and sanity of a society at large. Dopamine, and how we regulate the inner systems in our brain which are using Dopamine, affects not only the condition in which an individual, but also societies find themselves in.

That’s what Anna Lembke’s book is about. That’s why it has the title “Dopamine Nation”.


The Chemistry – And Neuroscience for Dummies

Dopamine is a chemical substance. In human beings, Dopamine is produced by the body itself, in the brain, and in the kidneys. The use of Dopamine for functions in living organisms is pretty widespread, it appears to be synthesized in plants and most animals.

Dopamine is also a member of a family of chemical substances which we call “hormones”. Which are, according to, for example, “MedLine Plus”, “your body’s chemical messengers“. As far as I want to take this explanation here, Dopamine appears to serve several of such uses in the body, but for the context of this book review only one is relevant: Dopamine is part of a family of substances called “neurotransmitters“. Dopamine is released by neurons in order to send signals to other neurons. From a chemical perspective, it is enough to appreciate that Dopamine is produced in specific areas of the brain, whilst the use of Dopamine by neurons in the brain is affecting many regions.

There are more than 100 substances which are currently identified as being neurotransmitters, the list appears to be open-ended. Neurotransmitters serve a vast array of functions which we increasingly understand, and as far as I would know, the ability of neurons to establish regulative systems in the brain without neurotransmitters is non-existent. Think about the brain without neurotransmitters: If I understand it correctly, you’re annihilated. Take away neurotransmitters, and not only a few functions break down. Simply put, the processes which also lead to the establishment of your persona, they are gone.

Including that which we describe as a free will, or as an illusion of free will. Whether we have one, or not, the jury is out and in this discussion philosophers, neurophysicists, even quantum-physicists, other scientists engage with people of faith, and even with people who have no idea what they are talking about. So, this is not more than a side-remark to make you smile, but also to think deeply about whether you have a “free will”, and what it means.

However, at minimum the workings of regulative systems in the brain which require neurotransmitters have a heavy impact on the ability of you to “freely” decide. If these regulative systems run off kilter, life as you know it changes. If the systems using Dopamine run haywire, your life becomes unmanageable.


Anna Lembke‘s book “Dopamine Nation” is dealing with regulative systems in the brain, or more specifically, with a subset of them. Broadly speaking, Lembke talks about the reward pathways in the brain. The brain, including these so-called reward pathways, is a product of millions of years of evolution, adding new layers, new parts, new features, to systems which we share with many other beings. All these, including what we sometimes call the “lizard brain”, contribute to the complex entity that we call “our brain”. More recently, in evolutionary terms, brain parts such as the frontal temporal lobe have been added. Added, not replaced something evolutionary older. Everything, including the “lizard parts” of the brain, contributes to what makes “us” the entities we are, how we perceive ourselves, how we are driven, consciously, or mostly without even knowing it. Ask specialists in the advertising industry about the latter. I should perhaps ask ChatGPT. But that’s for another blog entry.

But Anna Lembke’s book is not an academic piece relevant for students of neuroscience. She is covering vast territory of consequences that happen when the regulative balance within the reward pathways of the brain is triggered. There are parts of the book where she explains in layman’s language what happens when this system in the brain is allowed to work as it is supposed to work since millions of years.

Her focus, however, sits with what happens when it is put out of homoestasis for longer periods of time.


The Relevance

I am not lazy by saying that I won’t attempt to summarize the workings of this regulative process in the brain, and what happens when the delicate balance is lost.

On one hand, I want to encourage you to read the book, and/or other literature on these findings. On another note, though I feel very qualified in personally appreciating the consequences of the reward pathways entering a runaway process, I don’t feel qualified to summarize what already has been simplifed and summarized by Anna Lembke. But I will say that Annal Lembke and I share a deep-seated personal understanding, from different perspectives of professional qualification, about the consequences of the reward pathways not working any longer in a healthy way. In additon, we also share a personal experience about what happens then. So, I am not superstitious by elevating my own experience to the one of a distinguished scientific expert. Rather, as Anna Lembke describes her own experiences with addiction, I feel that I can safely say that I have my own experiences as well.

And in my own case, I am successfully adressing those since now ten years, by arresting the runaway process, and experiencing a lifestyle which is beyond my wildest dreams. Insofar, that my life has not only become more manageable, but that it also makes sense beyond what was the situation before: I was extremely successful in my work life, but my private life accumulated more and more damage, to myself, and to people I held, and hold, closest to my heart.

Anna Lembke’s book, beyond the neuroscientific explanation of how the parts of the brain which regulate reward, and pain, includes an impressive compilation of personal stories from her work as a therapist. Some of these you will find shocking. You should read all of them.

This is because Anna Lembke’s book does not start with explaining neuroscience, and then entering into the field of treatment of compulsive self-rewarding behavior which turns, over time, slowly and surely, the life of a human being and the lifes of persons around that person into one or another of the many forms of nightmare. If you happen to think about compulsive and addictive forms of self-abuse in a limited way, associating mainly alcohol or substance abuse with it, if you think that the plethora of possible behavioral forms of self-abuse are for the morally weak, you are in for a ride.

I hope this book would open your eyes, in that case.

But even there, the book does not end. Anna Lembke makes it abundantly clear that the consequences of runaway processes in the reward pathways of the human brain are going far beyond what we would want to see, and what we don’t want to see. In my view, she makes a very convincing argument for the pervasiveness of an attitude within our societies which she labels “the age of indulgence”. She clearly demonstrates the myriad forms by which we have gotten used to, and are exposed to, instant gratification. From where I sit, with my own experience, and with the heuristic and vast knowledge stemming from my own work on myself within a network of uncounted individuals who have found one of probably several ways how to re-establish a healthy form of living, allowing self-moderation, wholeness, and happiness, I can only testify for that what Anna Lembke is describing in those parts of her book is very relevant.

Yet, I am not done with praising this book:

Anna Lembke does not only explain that the dysfunctional processes within the reward pathways of the brain affect those who then have to experience a rock-bottom before being ready to acknowledge defeat, and being open to real recovery, and then healing. She goes beyond, by saying that this dysfunctionality has increasingly become the new normal. Like, any parent talking about the effects of Tic Toc on their children will immediately agree. Just mentioning this as one example. I don’t want to become too narrow in my focus here, the opportunities for constant, easy and immediate gratification go so far beyond any limited or exemplary explanation that I don’t feel qualified to eleborate here on it. Because, I even don’t know whether you have made it until here, or if you have given up already, thinking “What the hell is he now talking about?

What the hell I am talking about? I am talking about something which experts in the advertisement industry have understood since long. Something which those who design social media applications have brought to the next level. And using Artificial Intelligence for those computer algorhythms has brought the incorporation of neuroscientific understanding of how one can become addicted into perfection. May be you want to watch “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix. There you will hear it from those who admit that they have designed their products exactly this way.

And that, using and re-phrasing a catchphrase of one of my favorite Youtube personae, Sabine Hossenfelder, “That’s what Anna Lembke is talking about”.

Perhaps my little own personal disclosure has made it interesting for you to get until here. My blog is addressing topics of trauma and reconciliation for a reason which includes my own experiences with that. But if you have never thought about this topic, you may have a long way to go, both in appreciating the sheer width and depth of this societal problem, and especially because, as long as you are suffering from the consequences of this dysfunction yourself, you are literally unable to see it, in your own case.


Lastly, I join Anna Lembke in her thoughts about how the collective wisdom of the recovery community, especialy those known as Twelve Step Groups, could be beneficial way beyond recovery, as it is commonly understood. Again, from my own and very specific experience, I can testify that the number of people who are increasingly asking this question, is growing. I am meeting a lot of them on an almost daily basis.

Zoom is a blessing. I am still working on less long-winded sentences. Apologies, I wanted to be precise.

And love from Tigger and me. His reward pathways are a little out of control as well, I have been too permissive in giving him treats. But we are working on that…

The Reason For Storytelling: If You and I Don’t, Only Others Do – On Gaslighting Taken To a Global Level

Around 1 percent of U.S. veterans of World War II remain alive to tell their stories. It is estimated that by the end of this decade, fewer than 10,000 will be left. The vast majority of Americans today are unused to enduring hardship for foreign policy choices, let alone the loss of life and wealth that direct conflict with China or Russia would bring.”

In a Guest Essay in the New York Times, titled “World War III Begins With Forgetting”, Stephen Wertheim made this point. I can relate.

Like: The fewer people remember, and talk about, the Holocaust and the horrifying evil done to the world by the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, the more it becomes, at least, possible to mystify and to glorify it, and using the most ridiculous of all arguments. Like Kanye West, who now goes by the name Ye. “The Hill” is just bearer of one of countless reports about an interview which he, accompanied by Nick Fuentes, one of the most atrocious racists of recent times, managed to place in a show hosted by the likewise awful racist and xenophobist Alex Jones. Old stuff. Except that the use of social media bullhorns and supporting media is taking it to new levels. Because, whether it is ridiculous or not to praise the architect of the Holocaust wrongly as the guy who invented highways, or the microphone, it does not matter. I have heard arguments like that from my late father in law of my second marriage, more than thirty years ago. There were no Social Media by then. Today, the matter is to get a radical message out, upping the ante, on a path to mainstreaming a “truth” which is not only unsupported by any evidence, but also suppressing any historical truth about what happened. My stomach would turn upside down when I would even quote what Ye said. But wherever on whichever dubious platform, such as Alex Jones’, such outrageous comments are made, within hours the message is also spread through any mainstream media. One side of them glorifying it, the other side vilifying it. For those intents and purposes behind the message itself, both work out very well.

Before I get to the gaslighting argument, upping even this ante, two other examples for why storytelling is so necessary, and which danger sits with when witnesses of horrifying events pass away in numbers: The older the Mothers of Srebenica get, the less can be done against the minimising narrative related to the horror of the Srebrenica genocide. I met the Mothers often, and I truly admire their relentless sticking to telling their stories of a genocide. This is not a function of their healing when they repeat to tell their stories. It is a sacrifice, for the good of keeping a memory alive as a cautionary tale. One day I took my visiting father with me. They are so kind, they offered him coffee and spoke with him just because he was an interested human being. No other intent, no benefit for them. My father cried and cried. Until today, more than twenty years later, he talks about the deep impact of his visiting them.

The same holds true for the genocide in Rwanda, and in uncounted other situations. The more people grow up who have no direct memory of what happened in Germany, in Bosnia&Hercegovina, in Rwanda, in Cambodia, in Stalin’s Russia, during the brutal McCarthyism and under Jim Crow in the United States, or in the Armenian genocide, or else, the less the voices of those can be mitigated who minimise, refute, deny. If context is not there, nothing describes the extent of atrocious behavior against the Uighurs, the suffering of minorities in Myanmar, and I need to end with “and and and”, because the list is so long.

Storytelling is a social function which can not be replaced by the noise on Social Media. Quite to the contrary, storytelling is one of the needed antidotes against the devastating effect which unhinged Social Media has. Because even the function of Social Media is subject to a gaslighting narrative, putting an unrestrained version of Twitter, for example, into a manipulative context of an alleged support of free speech, whilst the ulterior motive only is to make profit, and to increase own control.

By the way, I believe that there is a reason for why Number 45, since his account got reinstated by Elon, has not used this account ever since: Not only that this would take away from his own bullhorn (Truth Social), he does not need to use his old Twitter account, and can chose smartly when that time would be there. Simply because the message that his account got reinstated is already enough for gaining even more “followers”. These “followers” likely rise in numbers directly on “Truth Social”, and on connected accounts including on Twitter, as a direct consequence of the reinstatement.

When I grew up, “Followers” was used as a term for people following a certain religious or spiritual belief system. I still object against the manipulative use of terms such as “Friend” or “Follower” on social media. That’s why, in this tiny world of “Durabile”, my blog, I don’t care about how few people “follow” my blog here. What I care about is that the day before yesterday this blog surpassed the threshold of 10.000 reads within those 120 posts since 2014. It just tells me that my storytelling is a tiny contribution to the overall need of telling stories.

Because there is no absolute truth, and no objective truth, as I pointed out here. Now, I am quoting myself from that blog post: QUOTE “Truth as a means of control. Number 45 did this on countless occasions, and more recently he is hard-pressed by people who are attempting to establish even more radical forms of white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, and anti-semitism. Read in The Rolling Stone: “How Trump Got Trolled by a Couple of Fascists“. UNQUOTE

I wrote this post December 01. Four days before writing this post. At that time, I found the analysis relevant which is reflected in the article in “The Rollingstone”. Meaning, that Ye, Fuentes and likeminded people were on a path pressing Nr 45 into even more radical messages.

What happened since? In a few statements including on Truth Social, Nr. 45 did what we saw on many occasions when there was an uproar: He minimised. Distracted. Sold ambigous messages. Allowed messages that he wasn’t aware. That he did not know Fuentes.

I have no personal doubt that all this is part of the MO. Because, as always, the next attack is even more extreme. Meanwhile, inasmuch as I love Jimmy Kimmel, he and other well-minded Late Night Comedy hosts find themselves in the trap that each of their shows ridiculing Nr 45 helps him.

Which is what I want to end with here, today: I just read a story in the British BBC: Under the headline “Trump’s call for ‘end’ of constitution condemned by Democrats“, BBC is reporting on a message from Number 45 on his platform “Truth Social”. According to this report, the White House condemned former President Trump after he called for the termination of the U.S. constitution. I quote from BBC: QUOTE In the post, Mr Trump referred to vague allegations of “massive & widespread fraud and deception” and asked whether he should be immediately returned to power. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!” he said. UNQUOTE Setting parts of the text in bold letters is done by me, not by BBC.

I can’t wait watching Jimmy Kimmel ridiculing Nr 45, but I mourn those months when he and others managed to find comedy topics which would not contribute to antagonism, by condemning it. May be I’ll write Jimmy’s staff an email.


This is unprecedented in contemporary history as I remember it. Since 2016 there is a history of statements in this blog concluding that it is getting worse before it gets better. But a former President of the United States fighting an accuse, possibly an indictment, for inciting sedition by establishing a narrative that is ripping down the foundations of the U.S. Constitution, this is unheard of.

There is a clause in the German Constitution sometimes named the “Stauffenberg clause“: “Gegen Jeden, der es unternimmt, diese Ordnung zu beseitigen, haben alle Deutschen das Recht auf Widerstand”. Or, in my translation: “Against anyone who is undertaking to remove this constitutional order, all Germans have the right to resist.” It can be found in Article 20, I grew up with, it’s part of my DNA and part of my pride. It’s one of the defining differences between today’s German Constitution and it’s predecessor before the Nazis demolished it: The Weimar Constitution. It is meant as a pillar, albeit, perhaps symbolic, in efforts to robustly protect a constitution from enemies within. Sometimes during 2016 I referred to it in discussions with friends on the U.S. Constitution. Then, with tears in my eyes, I played the song “Kristallnaach”, by the famous German Rockband BAP.

So, one of my hypothetical thoughts is about whether there will be people on the far-right in Germany who think about how to establish a narrative that the German constitutional order is subject to removal from within, by justifying their resistance in saying that the government and the establishment is the enemy of what the Forefathers, the Founders of our Constitution, meant. This is not far-fetched, and it is the same logic.

We have come this far in an approach of extremists in removing the foundations of contemporary democracies, and the rule of law. A few years ago, I would not have believed that one day I would read a report such as the one here on BBC. This has become the new normal, one and a half years before the next battle on presidential elections will begin, in 2024. So, my question is: What’s next, if this has already become the new normal now.

Of course, this question includes where those on the Republican side are, and which legal, ethical, and moral, responsibility they assume, by openly or tacitly condoning such a development. That, on one hand, is part of domestic politics in the U.S. in which I am only an external bystander. But over here, in Europe, we fight the same fight. And we are affected by what is happening “over there”. And vice versa.

We are in this together, only. There is no space for claiming “that’s not my business”, or for complacency. Each day, we are waking up with new worse news than before.

So, why all this under the headline “Storytelling”?

One of my next blog entries will talk about one of my recent books reads, “Dopamine Nation”, by Dr. Anna Lembke. Full quote of the book in my next article. But here is the connection: Within a universe of contemporary addictive sources of Dopamine release through substance and behavioral abuse, one key problem sits with Social Media. I will also refer to the challenges one of my children has with the addictive suffering using Tic Toc.

I believe we can not use Social Media for the kind of storytelling I mean in this blog. For many reasons which I will try to explain there. But for starters, Social Media does not support peaceful fact-based storytelling implicitly through it’s algorhythms. I have own examples, including this blog, or my Youtube channel. I stay away from inciting or upsetting messages and their promotion, as a consequence, nowhere in the suggestion lists of these sites any of my writing or my videos will come up.

There is a need not only to regulate Social Media, but also to devise strategies how storytelling remains a vital democratic and humble function of our societies and cultures. Storytelling is inherently local, or topological. It is unsensational, and personal. Peaceful, mindful, truthful, honest, personal storytelling. No rambling, no yelling involved.

I hope that I adhere to my own standards, here.

Truth Wars

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

“truth – the quality of being true”

“the truth – the real facts about a situationevent, or person

“truth – statement or principle that is generally considered to be true

“truthfulness – the quality of being honest and not containing or telling any lies


From Wikipedia:

Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality


I guess I could go on and use definitions or descriptors from many other sources, and still there would be a sort of ambiguity reflected in the term “truth” that can’t be dissolved. Words such as “quality“, “real“, “facts“, “generally considered“, “being honest“, “lies“, they are a far cry away from an axiomatic meaning which would establish something like “an absolute truth” which can not be disputed by anyone, or any argument.

Looking at the above, truth is a relative term, and it requires consent between those who state that a thing, an event, a statement, a concept “is true”.

So, truth is not only a label, but also a relationship between conscious entities, such as human beings (but not only!) through consent, or agreement, or unfortunately also by unchallenged imposition, or through joint perception. For any non-colorblind person, “red” is “red” and “blue” is “blue”, despite the fact that I cannot prove that what I see as “blue” is seen the very same way by another person agreeing with me on labeling the color of a thing as being “blue”. There are people who, just for example, perceive colors and sounds VERY differently from the majority of humans: Chromesthesia or sound-to-color synesthesia is a type of synesthesia in which sound involuntarily evokes an experience of color, shape, and movement.” Those who have experience with substances such as LSD, or Psylocybin, will report about sound or especially music creating patterns and extremely detailed textures and colors, once one closes the eyes. It helps in understanding the relative truth of conventional perception, and the limitations coming from if I just assume that another person is assuming the same things being “true”.

If it is true for me that this color is “red”, it requires a consent with you to agree on labeling a perception the same way. In order to understand you, I need a certain degree of joint experiences, and languages being used in a similar or same way.


Is there something which is beyond a requirement to consent in order to be considered being “true”? Aren’t the facts from science undisputable? Isn’t mathematics something which is founded on axioms? So, looking up “Axiom” reveals the definition that “an axiompostulate, or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments.

Here we are again, using the term “true“, or “taken as true“, meaning that we have to consent on accepting some statement as being “true”. If I believe in a flat earth, my fellow flat-earthers and I will claim that it is true, and will not deviate, whichever scientific facts which I consider being true I throw at them.

I remember a science lesson at my high-school, probably around 1974. The teacher had invited two members of Jehova’s Witnesses into our class. We were invited to discuss their belief that the World has been created by their Creator roughly 6000 years ago (plus the almost fifty years between that discussion and today…). My friend Peter and I, who loved loved science, used every fact we knew about in our reasoning that, according to our knowledge, the Earth was roughly 4.5 billion years old, in a universe we nowadays believe has been evolved from a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. There was literally no way that we could penetrate their arguments and make them agreeing on some form of truth which would have established a consent between us and them. Neither could they convince us related to their version of Genesis, just mentioning.


So, as an intermediate thought: What does it mean if people in our current state of antagonisation say “Truth Matters”? What is the meaning behind a brand label created by Number 45, “Truth Social”?

It means nothing else than that consent on an unspecified number of qualities, beliefs, policies, worldviews, or else, is called upon. And at least “Truth Social” would be an example for a dogma such as “As long as you consent to my view, you are in line with my truth, and if you are not, I may even call you an Enemy of the State.” Truth as a means of control. Number 45 did this on countless occasions, and more recently he is hard-pressed by people who are attempting to establish even more radical forms of white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, and anti-semitism. Read in The Rolling Stone: “How Trump Got Trolled by a Couple of Fascists“.

So, when we talk about “Truth Matters”, is it about imposing my truth upon you, or finding a mutual platform of consent, through listening, empathising, understanding, agreeing, compromising, finding common denominators?


Before coming back to my last question, here another source of my personal belief system:

In the Buddhist teachings, there are Two Truths. …”there’s an idea that everything has two levels of truth, relative and absolute: how we experience life when we’re immersed in it, and how we experience it from a distance when we can get a vaster perspective” (Pema Chödrön – How We Live Is How We Die, 2022 Shambala Publications, Page 51).

Essentially, in my interpretation (sic! need of consent again…): Absolute truth is a concept from the spiritual realm, including, but not limited to, religious faith. Please note that in my view Buddhism is not a religion, but a spiritual source of wisdom. I don’t believe in a personalised God concept. But I am firmly rooted in a spiritual connection with Everything.

If you, the reader, would agree with me, then we would conclude that the world of phenomena has only relative truths, based on perceptions which are mutually held. The absolute is the realm of the spiritual world. However, if people claim they have understood the Absolute (Or claim God spoke to them), and they allow it to permeate into the world of phenomena, dogma is born: My truth is absolute. My God will protect my soldiers, and not your soldiers. My God says that women need to be veiled. My God allows me to fight a Holy War. Radical Muslim dogmatists have done that, radical Buddhist fundamentalists have done that, radical Hindu fundamentalists have done that, Christianity has its share of radical violent dogmatism and suppression and brutal violence, Judaism is not without such phenomena, no religion or spiritual belief framework is without shameful stains resulting from imposing an absolute truth on my fellow women and men, human beings of any sexual and gender identification, followers of a belief, and especially also children.


Where does this lead me to, here?

What I see is the widespread use of catchphrases such as “Truth Matters” with a reduced understanding as if there would be “one truth”, and that others fall victim to “untruthfulness”. That those who manipulate with lies do establish the opposite to truth. I don’t see it like that. I see it as the attempt of replacing “your truth” with “my truth”. I see it as an attempt to control the narrative, and through it, others.

That is why I continue to note that still, increasingly, and on a global level, we see antagonisation thriving, and collaboration and listening in an effort to understand the position of others diminishing.

When the Biden Administration took office, there was a refreshing silence for some time on Number 45. Nothing today is reminding of those few months. Everywhere I look, listen, watch, read, I see Trumps, Ye’s, Elons, Victors, Matteos, Björns, Vladimirs, and their copycats. And everywhere, the radicalisation leads to that the next copycat is more radical than the one before.

That’s why I choose “Truth Wars” as the title. Truth Wars do not require consent by argument, in such a violent scenario it matters that I succeed, by imposition and manipulation, not by accepting another person’s reality as equally relevant to mine.

What I see is that after a perceived “lull”, the Truth Wars have become even more radical. Racism, xenophobia, hate against transgender people, hate of and supremacy over women, anti-semitism, anti-muslim sentiments, they come closer to be part of the mainstream. As a part of a larger pattern of xenophobia, in the Western World the white hateful male lower middle-class and impoverished lower-class underdogs fall victim to pied pipers, some of them extremely privileged and dishonest.

What I also see is that we deploy force against force, loudness against loudness, control against the attempt to control. Literally every such concept is pouring gasoline on the firepit.


In my line of professional work, I support the consent between the six jurisdictions forming the Western Balkans, on the belief that fewer weapons, explosives, and ammunition, and more control over all licit aspects of them, and the fight against illicit aspects of using weapons, their ammunition, and explosives, is good for peace and security in these societies. As a consequence of this consent on a jointly held truth, these six jurisdictions (we name them jurisdictions, since Kosovo is not un-disputed amongst all of them and amongst others in relation to statehood, different to Albania, Bosnia &Hercegovina, Montenegro, North-Macedonia, and Serbia), these six jurisdictions communicate, collaborate, and cooperate highly joint in implementing policy and operations. They do this despite the fact that some of them have disputes on a political level, and that cultural, ethnical, and faith diversity creates this amazing and wonderful mix which has also seen violence, oppression, war and genocide when some considered their truth more supreme than the truth of others.

I am using this as a practical example for the opposite of what I have labeled “Truth Wars”. This is one of countless examples were people sit together and listen, and learn from each other, willing to do things jointly, whilst acknowledging that they do not agree on everything, for the sake of a higher objective, and advantages for all, instead of only for oneself.

Yet, the fundamental consent (sic: truth) on how to control Small Arms and Light Weapons could not be more different from, for example, the United States, where there is a widely held belief by many (don’t know whether they constitute a majority, and doubt it), that only the Second Amendment ensures the protection of the First Amendment. The accepted truth, and the consequences of it (exponentially more violence and unprecedented levels of mass shootings) are radically different, and this permeates literally into everything, including how for example policing concepts are being developed and implemented: It is not only about the need of police to protect themselves against an ubiquity of weapons; If citizens reject policing as something they want to give up their own weapons for, community oriented policing is VERY different in understanding, concept, and implementation.


If truth matters, it includes to accept that there are many different subjective truths. This allows for their coexistence, their learning from each other, their development, and ideally the growth of something that is more joint. So, very different to what we seem to nurture, or to fight, right now.

Let’s be a little more precise if we talk about “the people”, Mr. Elon Musk, shall we?

Until recently, I occcupied a tiny teeny microscopic corner in the Twitterverse. In any list of Twitter accounts I would have been placed rock-bottom. My Twitter-presence was just a means allowing me to click on external links which would require me to log in into Twitter.

Two weeks ago I announced on my Linkedin-Account that I am letting the bird go because I don’t want to be any part of a story of unhinged narcissism combined with pure capitalism disguised behind a concept of so-called long-termism.

The two weeks since then have been, mildly put, interesting. The purposefully chaotic sledgehammer-approach of Mr. Musk ripping through Twitter has been all over the news. I had a hard time finding a way keeping myself updated about what was going on in relation to Twitter and its role in public discourse and communication, and at the same time to avoid being sucked in into endless replications of upsetting stories combined with the ubiquitous display of Mr. Musk’s face. I tried not to get emotionally touched by the topic, because there is an insidous purpose behind an approach that keeps people glued to emotionally upsetting stories, combined with the personalisation of messages connected to faces: If you don’t mind to combine your public persona with negative and upsetting antagonising news and opinions, chances are that your internet presence on social media is sky-rocketing.

It is an alternative to “sex sells”, or the smart way how some video-bloggers combine the display of female body parts with entirely unrelated blog-content in the same way as classic advertisement does. The means how to maximise gaining attention are very well understood within behavioral psychology. If you like to watch a very entertaining and honest and ethical video about clickbait, head over to one of my favorite Youtube-Channels: Veritasium.

Some may say that the dishonest use of social media as a bullhorn for highly antagonising and emotionalising content in order to achieve desired manipulative effects is high-risk gambling. Kanye West might be considered being an example for that this strategy can back-fire. Others may say the days of Nr. 45 are over and it is time to move on. But that doesn’t make it feel less dangerous to me, and I disagree with “moving on”. Because the damage is done on a structural level, notwithstanding whether a few narcissists became victim of their own high-risk gambling or not. All narcissists who are also sociopaths are high-risk gamblers. It is an inherent part of their personality. They are unable to do anything else.

The most upsetting issue with Twitter over the past two weeks is the inhumane and dictatorial approach to Twitter staff members. Rarely have I seen a worse example for treating staff members like disposable items. In his cold and arrogant attitude Mr. Musk clearly demonstrates an inability to empathise with other human beings. In this ego-centric worldview filled with hubris, only personal power, might and wealth exist. Neither staff members, nor users count in any other way than the impact they are having on profit: Staff costs money, users are meant to be milked. We can witness how unhinged capitalism works, and we all are having a hard time of not falling victim to the countless efforts of blurring our eyesight.


20 November, the news reported that Elon Musk reinstated Mr. Trump’s Twitter Account. Below the references in the U.S. New York Times, the British BBC, and the German Tagesschau. All three newsfeeds quoted Mr. Musk with “The people have spoken”.

https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/trump-twitter-musk-usa-103.html


What happened?

January 08, 2021, Twitter blocked the account used by Nr. 45, following the insurrection events of January 06. After his takeover of Twitter, the richest man of the world initiated a poll on Twitter, just a few days ago, and for the duration of 24 hours. There has, to my knowledge, not been any external monitoring of this poll that would allow us to verify the results, so, according to Twitter itself (or better, Mr. Musk himself), 15 Million users of Twitter participated in the poll. The German Tagesschau estimates there is a current estimated total of 230 million accounts being used on Twitter on a daily basis. 51.5% of these 15 Million users were, according to Twitter, in favor for a return of the 45th President of the United States to Twitter.

Which led Mr. Musk to reinstating Nr 45’s account, and tweeting that “The people have spoken”, adding a sentence in Latin “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”, meaning that the voice of the people is the voice of God.

Excuse me???? The people have not spoken. A social media platform populated with user accounts does not constitute a people. An insanely rich billionaire buys a social media company, shredding staff, organisation, policy and procedures, moving the company towards business models where users do not only pay the price of extraction of their personal data for advertisement purposes, but are also encouraged to pay for services. These users, as far as they have decided to stay, are not a “people”.

The hubris of Mr. Musk, comparing a questionable polling process with the legitimising voice of a people, then even adding a divine context, borders insanity. Like in cases we have seen before, there is a cold-blooded purpose behind that. It is meant to make sure that the signal stays hidden in the noise.

Distinguish The Signal From The Noise – Also feat.: The Long Term Impact of the Pandemic, and of Conflict and War

Setting the stage: From a conversation with my son

Yesterday afternoon I chatted with my son on FaceTime. He lives in Toronto and is fourteen years old. For him it was morning, and I was amazed seeing him preparing his own breakfast potatoes with an omelette. It looked so good on my phone screen that I could smell and taste it, I wished I would have been there. He promised to make me such a breakfast when I’m in Toronto in a few weeks time.

At one point, the casual conversation about what’s up veered into the parental part: “How’s School Coming On?” – “Good good”. – “Any details to share?” – “No, not really, it’s just good.” – “Do you like your new school?[The kids have entered high school education this summer] – “It’s okay, but have you ever heard somebody saying that school is a place you really enjoy?” – “I understand, fair enough. Wasn’t much different for me, when I was your age. But, just curious: Do you like what they teach you in physics? And what is it they teach you?” – “It’s okay, but I would love you to make more of your tiny explanatory pieces on physics, I always enjoy them.”

Guess what? I was flattered, felt these little pieces of work of mine make sense. I felt motivated to make more of them. Perhaps I will share some of this stuff on my Youtube channel “All Over The Place“. That’s the fun place in my writing and creating. Over here, at durabile.me, it’s more about the serious stuff I like to write about.

What everyone knows, including from own experience, and too often forgets: The importance of education for a society

Yes, school, as I told my son, is also something I remember in a similar way. Necessary, but not a place of daily rejoice, like, getting up and thinking “Yay, I can’t wait until being in class!“. Meeting my class mates always was a mixture of joy and anxiety, I was sort of like Charlie Brown, isolated in many ways, struggling to find friends and appreciation. Meeting my teachers, more often than not, was a mixed bag as well. The subject issues at school, mathematics, physics, chemistry, language, history, geography, some of the stuff I loved, some of the stuff I really struggled with. I could not shrug it off, like Calvin in the comic series “Calvin&Hobbes” does. I often strolled home with my head low between my shoulders, like Charlie Brown in the comic series “Peanuts”.

But it was necessary to learn, and I knew that. Necessary at the very least. Pleasant, preferably. Which is, certainly, part of the art of pedagogy: How to teach knowledge? Being effective in establishing knowledge also needs to mitigate unpleasant experiences. Not everyone of us has a Spartan mentality, like “what does not kill me makes me tougher”. The saying “School prepares for life”, often used and even more often abused, at it’s core it is, of course, true. What I learn at school, it becomes a defining part of everything thereafter. What I don’t learn defines my life in every aspect as well. And this is especially holding true for general skills which I acquire through education. I don’t have to be able to explain Richard Feynman’s quantum mathematics. But a general level of knowledge, combined with education in a general sense, it is setting the stage for anything to follow.

Enter Covid: Millions of children, and millions of their parents and caregivers were all of a sudden reminded of the educational role of schools, through their sudden absence as physical places to go. Places to gather. To socialise. To learn social skills. To be taught knowledge, and to become educated.

The continuing impact of Covid goes way beyond cases of long-Covid

October 24, 2022, the New York Times published an article “Math Scores Fell in Nearly Every State, and Reading Dipped on National Exam“. Here I am quoting the article’s beginning:

U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam released on Monday, offering the most definitive indictment yet of the pandemic’s impact on millions of schoolchildren. In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.

So, here we are with scientific results demonstrating the devastating combined impact of the pandemic and of how we needed to protect ourselves, collectively: In order to reduce casualties, and to reduce suffering by attempting to keep the medical system operational, we took tolls. Mental tolls, physical tolls, emotional tolls, cognitive behavioural tolls, and educational tolls.

Heavy tolls, like that on average, the number of fourth graders and eighth graders being proficient in math and reading took an exceptionally deep plunge towards an abyss. And what is indicative in the U.S. system, from my personal experience it’s true also in Canada, and from what I hear and witnessed in Europe, I have no indication it would be different here. I am sure that there is not a single country which found a mitigation strategy through a form of protracted exclusive home-schooling similarly effective in knowledge transfer as classroom-teaching is.

It is also correct to conclude that what holds true for math and reading is also holding true for general levels of education, social skills, and a general toolset which allows to traverse our contemporary world knowingly: By having a proficient knowledge about our own environment, we go beyond a collective capacity to be economically competitive: Knowledge allows us to make informed decisions, opposed to either making uniformed decisions, or being the proverbial sheep in the herd of individuals being manipulated by those who do, for own and for controlling reasons.

I also happen to think that there is the educational equivalent to what we observe in relation to the distribution of wealth in our societies: Like ever fewer people are getting more wealthy, and ever more people fall into low-income and also poverty, with a shrinking middle-class, the same certainly is true for the distribution of knowledge. If good jobs require a CV with reference to an Ivy-League-College-Education, if creating what drives our economic progress is in the hands of ever fewer people who understand the underlying science, or engineering, it will inevitably also contribute to the growing size of parts of a society which do not hold many economic resources.

But the damage goes further:

Proficient knowledge establishes a general capacity to distinguish the signal from the noise

The less I know in a general understanding about how the world is functionining, the more I am vulnerable for “Scharlatanerie”, and for all the messy speculative stuff from people who believe to know, do actually not know, and create noise, inaccurate information, wrong information, and deliberate misinformation. The last one for a variety of reasons, including attempting to control, but also because sensational stuff simply sells. It always did, in magazines. It increasingly does, on the digital media platforms of this Brave New World.

I’ll use an example, on my topics of scientific interest: I need a basic knowledge about how the James Webb Space Telescope JWST works, in order to filter out those sensational channels where people attract viewers by suggesting JWST has found proof for alien existence. I need a sound knowledge to stay with those channels informing me about most recent discussions in Quantum Mechanics, just to grasp the profound impact of why the 2022 Nobel Price has been awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger. My mind “explodes” (or implodes) when I try to understand the rationale which can be found on the Nobel Prize Website. But my general knowledge allows me to appreciate why the entire physics community is abuzz of profound discoveries to come which may, again, make previous knowledge obsolete. Previous knowledge which already has successfully made my mind imploding, just saying.

This is anything but an esoteric discussion. It is, in my view, one of the most crucial and often unappreciated topics in relation to how we protect values in our societies: Through education. At the same time, the relevance goes much beyond the impact of the Covid-19-pandemic.

In literally every conflict- or post-conflict-environment I have been working in, the devastating impact of conflict, violence, hatred, and demolition of infrastructure on the educational system has been larger than life. Where educational capacities remained crippled, or absent, the respective society remained unable to recover as much as everyone hoped. Which, in turn, led to many effects which created the next round of frustration, such as through migrating away, accepting corruption and crime, and a general path towards becoming more prone to the rule of the powerful, instead of the rule of law.

Concluding this one with a view on the war of aggression by Russia raging in the Ukraine: We see systematic attacks on critical infrastructure in the Ukraine, and that includes the shelling of schools and kindergardens. It has a terrible invisible effect: Deploying strategic blows against a society and country by sowing fear includes to make it difficult to uphold a daily life allowing to transmit knowledge to children, very similar to the effects of the pandemic.

There has been a press conference the other day with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, arguing for a “Marschall Plan” for the restoration of civilian capacities in the Ukraine. It is really important news. The longer a society is incapacitated, whether through a pandemic, or conflict, the less the value of general education can be upheld in any country. In turn, fragility becomes systemic.

Uvalde – A Practical Proposal: Stop the monetization of social media channels glorifying Small Arms and Light Weapons

Picture taken by the author, 2016

Living in the United States between 2013 and 2018, I have had an inside view into the discussion that never seems to get anywhere: How to end the unending series of mass shootings which especially haunt this country. Like so many others, I am sick and tired. I am mad with the arms lobby, I do not understand how any politician arguing the rights of the Second Amendment being more important than any meaningful gun control law in light of the suffering of relatives, especially parents and caregivers, can even sleep, knowing that their sick and crazy protection of the gun lobby is making them morally complicit, as the next mass shooting will not occur in a decade, or next year, but within weeks.

At the time of this writing, parents, caregivers, husbands, wives, relatives, friends in Uvalde, Texas join a group of uncounted individuals who do not get relief from unspeakable pain, suffering losses that no parent and loved one should ever have to live with. Being a parent myself, my heart is broken and my thoughts are reaching out to those who feel utterly destroyed, hopeless, powerless, left with no meaning in their life any more.

Please watch this BBC video.

Gun violence in the United States takes more victims than traffic does. With brutal ignorance, the argument is repeated, over and over again, by these enablers of the NRA, that gun control does not curb this violence, that only armed security at schools does. There is no grain of evidence for such outrageous claims, against all comparative scientific evaluation of the effect of gun control legislation in jurisdictions all over the world. I am not even bothering with referencing such results here, they are ubiquitous for everyone who is really interested in getting the picture.

I invite you, for example, to watch the statement of Jimmy Kimmel, on occasion of the Uvalde school mass killing. I don’t have to add anything.

Meanwhile, German news report about contacts which the perpetrator had, in the weeks running up to the crime, with a fifteen year old girl in Germany. Including that the perpetrator clearly announced his intentions, and not only over the last minutes, but long before.

Which brought me to the role of Social Media, again. And here is a practical suggestion:

Demonetize any social media channel glorifying Small Arms and Light Weapons.


Since 2019, my work is connected to the efforts of the German Federal Foreign Office to support activities of States and international organizations to set up strategic, long-term, and meaningful gun control. We support this in six jurisdictions in the Western Balkans, we support it in the Carribean, we support it in West Africa, we look for ways how to engage in East Europe, and in Central Asia. The center of gravity of my work revolves around supporting the six jurisdictions of the Western Balkans in their effort to implement a regional strategic roadmap addressing all aspects of gun and ammunition control in a holistic way. Please, if you’re interested, read about the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap here. I am connected to similar activities in other regions of the world.

So I believe I know what I am talking about.


Advising on all technical, strategic, and often political aspects of this support work, I need to stay informed about latest developments, types of weapons and ammunition, converted weapons, 3D-printed weapons, and so much more.

That’s how Youtube began to invade my watchlist with weapons channels of the craziest forms.

I won’t even promote them here by mentioning names. They are pervasive, ubiquitous, the makers of these channels live and hail from the United States, Germany, Austria, just to name but a few.

Privately I am watching other things. I am subscribing to a few channels of vanlifers, who struggle to keep up a watching community of a few thousand, sometimes more. But none of them reaches the hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers and views which weapons’ channels easily get. And I do know, from extensive watching, how absolutely centered these channels are around monetization, how makers tip-toe around some rules which would lead to a de-monetization of a vlog entry.

Here are two suggestions:

  1. Those of us who watch these channels: Unsubscribe, and make yourself heard about the reasons why you are doing this, in the comments’ sections. Subscribing to these channels is allowing the makers of these channels to generate a part of their revenue. Stop watching this stuff.
  2. To social media: It is time to take sides, and not to wait for a sickening and tiring new round of discussions on regulating the Internet. You don’t have to take the channels offline. Just demonetize any channel which can not clearly live up to justified reasons, such as scientific, policy, news&reporting, or else. Don’t hide behind the argument that the line is difficult to draw. The number of channels with people firing weapons under the craziest of all circumstances just for the purpose of glorifying weapons, and attract people watching it, it is outrageous. Take a stand. Don’t put your business model front and center. Act with compassion and support those who are eaten alive by grief, for the rest of their lives.

“With The Help of Social Media Memories Can Be Erased“ – Considerations on the Relativity of Truth

Preface: I read the interview with Maria Ressa (see below) and began to express my thoughts about social media manipulation during a few days in Bucharest. It turned out not to be an easy-going process, I was struggling with something that I now identify as the question “Can I find an objective truth?” In a way this felt to me like an extension of my thinking which I began with Part 1 – 3 grappling with aspects of “perception”.

The following travel to Toronto, including some severe jetlag, didn’t help me feeling comfortable with the results of my thought processes, so I let the issue lingering in my drafts folder. Now, with some rest and witnessing a beautiful spring morning in Ontario, I’ll try it again.

What is truth?

Maria Ressa has been awarded the Nobel Price for Peace in 2021, together with Dmitry Muratov, for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Her journalist work is including 20 years as a correspondent and investigative reporter. The title of this blog entry includes a quote from her.

12.02.2022, the German online portal of the news broadcast “Tagesthemen” carried an interview with Maria Ressa on occasion of the Philippine Presidential elections. The elections were won by Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos jr., son of the late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos sr., who ruled the country between 1965 and 1986, until he was finally ousted. Together with his family and his cronies, he stands for decades of authoritarian reign, massive corruption, and reckless brutality. The family fled their country with an estimated 10bn USD. A good summary on occasion of the 2022 elections can be found in this BBC piece.

For context: The outgoing President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte leaves a reign of shame for history, too. Most remembered will be the wave of extra-judicial killings with which he allowed the Police to mutate into a murderous gang, killing scores of people, pretending that a strong-armed fight against drug kings would necessitate this and that there would not be a need for due judicial process. I remember U.S. President Nr. 45 speaking admirably of Duterte. Which in itself does not make Duterte a likeable person, Nr 45 also fell in love with North-Korea’s dictator, and, well, his docile relationship with Vladimir Putin will never be forgotten either. Pied pipers.

The core message of Maria Ressa in this German article is that memories of decades of history can be erased, if social media is masterfully used. Not only that memory can be changed, that alternate versions of the same historical events can be created, no, Ressa says that corporate memories can be erased by social media manipulation. Disinformation campaigns on an industrial scale allow that, according to her. The BBC article quoted above would also indicate a manipulation aiming at changing the perception of history by “Bongbong” and associates for at least the last ten years.

Of course, an interview shortened for the digestion of the general public can not provide the same evidence as academic research would do. But for my thoughts it appears to be enough to rely both on the journalistic ethics behind two renowned public broadcasters and on the fact that a credible investigative journalist won the World’s most prestigious award.

The past years have established a large body of evidence that social media is used systematically for manipulation of public opinion on a gargantuan scale. Many will remember the impact of such activities in the run-up of U.S. presidential elections, 2016. The litany of actual examples would be too long to read. December 2020 I wrote about one example, explaining a NATO study on aspects of this topic.

The case of the Philippine Presidential elections is frightening. Bongbong Marcos has won in a landslide election, not by a margin. No need for Bongbong even to prepare for challenging an election as being manipulated, and to contest it. According to Ressa, Bongbong’s victory is based on a manipulation of the electorate on an industrial scale. On lies that create a narrative of Ferdinand Marcos sr. being a hero, the greatest leader of the Philippine Nation ever, and that his son, if he will win the elections, will give the money back to the poor. We will see whether he will do that. My experience would tell me that chances are slim if the whole election is already based on an epic manipulation of historical reality.

The overwhelming victory appears, strictly speaking by counting the votes, sound. Yet, the manipulation sits straight in front of our eyes: Democracy has been defeated with a never-ending stream of content on social media re-branding the image of the Marcos’ family. Phillipinos were told that the dictatorial regime was a golden age, free of crime. Which is pretty much the opposite of what is on historical record.

But, is there something like one common repository of historical records? That’s what I am struggling with here: Is there something like an objective truth?

In an Address to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin on January 27th, 1921 on Geometry and Experience, Albert Einstein elaborates on the relationship between the laws of mathematics and reality: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” (Project Gutenberg eBooks, “Sidelights on Relativity”, EBook #7333).

In the case of historical truths I would transfrom this sentence into “As far as a historical record refers to reality, it is not certain; and as far as such a record is certain, it does not refer to reality.”

This leaves many people very confused. In my belonging to a group of people, I do establish and participate in a historical context about what happened which is based on a common framework through which the members of this group identify. If the framework is very different between two or several different groups of people, their interpretation of what happened in the past can have little or no common grounds. And always when two or several different explanations clash in a discourse, we try to identify an objective yardstick against which we construct our argument why we believe we hold the truth. And we fail on agreeing on the same yardstick, the same objective measuring rod. The results can include so many divergent views, like two different groups entirely disagreeing on whether historical events were constituting a genocide, or not. The result being that the shared reality of such different groups differs in so fundamental ways that coexistence is the best option, always with the threat of violent discourse looming.


There is nothing new in the above. The new aspect, insofar as my writing goes, relates to the claim that systematic social media manipulation can entirely change the public record of history. Again, the past is filled with examples how systematic disinformation campaigns can establish new perceived realities within a group. Being a German national, I like to refer to disinformation campaigns undertaken by the ilk surrounding Hitler. Goebbels for sure is an example of masterful application of deceit and the use of manipulation in order to control the German populace.

But is there something new stemming from the ubiquity of social media of these days? If the general method of manipulation through disinformation is a tool which has been used for millenia in order to control populations for the benefit of a ruling elite, what is the new dimension which comes from social media?

Maria Ressa, in that “Tagesthemen” interview, also refers to the manipulation machine used by Russia in relation to the situation on the Krim, and in the Ukraine: She claims that the first step is about oppression, and the second step is about extinguishing memory. Based upon the experiences she has made in her home country, the Phillipines, she anticipates the same method being utilised in the context of Russias intent to aggressively usurp the Ukraine. She claims that social media have the effect to divide and to radicalise. Thus, she challenges the argument that social media is a tool vital for guaranteeing the freedom of speech. Instead of being used to allow free speech, according to her the algorithms used by Twitter, FaceBook, Tic Toc, and so many more, they make sure that priority will be given to content which is distributed broadly, preferably even virally. Of course, this is the ad-driven business-model behind social media enterprises. According to Ressa, therefore the distribution of facts will always loose against the distribution of lies, hate, and resentment. Drowning the news related to factual reporting, Ressa then states that the result is an entire loss of a shared reality.

The yardstick of a common historical record has unalterably changed, the division has been established, power can be exerted by controlling the perceived reality. Ressa makes the case for a global threat for values including democracy, but she also hints at, perhaps in my view, the biggest threat of our contemporary times: That we will disagree about the climate crisis as a consequence of global warming.

Which is, probably, on top of the list of global challenges which require a joint reality framework holding true for all people and nations on this globe.


As so often, I have no simple answer. Because there simply is no simple answer at all. We tend to simplify, and to go to extremes. Which always amplifies the problem once a complex system is brought out of its previous delicate state of balance, whilst we do not know how to create a new balance, instead of the entire system collapsing.

So, who is right? Maria Ressa with claiming that social media has the potential to destroy realities, and the underlying framework allowing for democracy, or Elon Musk, who has repeatedly tweeted that taking Nr 45 off Twitter has been one of the biggest mistakes, and that this is all about guaranteeing the freedom of speech?

I am still navigating through the depths of this question, and personal consequences. Should I maintain my Twitter account (which is a microscopic grain of sand in the Twitterverse) once Musk owns Twitter? What I know is that I would be extremely careful about listening to a person who happens to be the richest person in the world, who is able to just buy a social media firm in a snap, take it off from the stock market in order to make the changes of his liking, and then to put it back on the stock market. Why should I trust somebody who has one single intention: Using things for a business model based on profitmaking? Why should I believe that a statement about freedom of opinion is unbiased, if the motivation behind is purely enterprise-driven, and the methodology being used is taking every single accountability mechanism offline?

Also not new. But for me, the new thing is that one person has the potential to make a decision that has global implications on a level unheard of in history, whilst any mechanisms of public accountability appear to be on national level, and to some extent on a level of international organisations, but where the credibility of these international organisations is under massive systematic attack.

I will tell you if I stay on Twitter.

On the rule of law and trusting it in times of misinformation and manipulation spread using social media

I finished my reading of the book “How Civil Wars Start And How To Stop Them”, written by Barbara F. Walter (Crown, 2022, Ebook ISBN 9780593137796). I wrote about it in my article “Anocracies – And Thoughts on International Efforts Related to Conflict Prevention“. There I said that I was impressed with the detailed historical account on the many civil wars, and what political science learned about their predictability. I also said that I will comment less on the second part of the book, where the author is applying those experiences on the current state of affairs in the United States of America. But here is a brief personal impression:

Purely from an emotional perspective, the first part of the book felt gripping, the second part felt like something was missing. Because the first part tells the story of not only why things went haywire, but also how they went haywire. The first part of the book talks about catastrophies that happened. Because the current situation in the U.S. is troubling, and partly deeply concerning, but has NOT led to a worst case scenario (yet?), the book is speculative in this regard, because, simply, it has to.

The author attempts to come up with a future scenario of how a descent into civil war in the U.S. could look like. When I read it, it felt incomplete. It had to. I believe the scenario had to necessarily stay away from including a potential role of individual actors which brought us to the brink of that abyss. Otherwise the book would have become speculative and politically antagonizing. The role of “Number 45” is being described in how the U.S. witnessed it’s downgrading from a starling democracy into the field of anocracies. But the book’s scenario on possible further descent stays away from involving contemporary individual actors. An that is why the scenario feels hypothetical. The absence of this link allows for concluding that we are, perhaps, far away from seeing one of the most stable democracies of the world itching closer to internal chaos. Which we are not, as I believe.

Here are two recent news articles which may make you better understand where my concerns are, still allowing me to stay out of the same trap. Make your own conclusions on whether the future may bring us closer to worst-case, just by reading and thinking about this one, and this one. We are a far cry away from being out of trouble. The mid-term elections in the U.S. are coming up, I feel we are in for a very bumpy 2022. From a European perspective, the current stabilisation of transatlantic jointness is extremely fragile, depending on future development.

At one point I was wondering what would happen if a future presidential candidate would claim his right for using Twitter back. It feels like “You’re damned if he is allowed, and you’re damned if he is not”. The claim of the far-right that it is fighting a corrupt, even pedophile global cabale, including depicting the free press as the enemy of the people, it will see a new and even more intense replication: The next round of racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, male domination, conspiracy theories challenging the efforts to fight the pandemic, and global warming, attempting to establish a narrative fighting Western democracies, it is just coming up. And the use of social media will be pivotal for those who attack, and those who defend.

The jury is out how this unfolds. And then there is the nutshell of Barbara F. Walter’s point how a fragile and unstable further descent into becoming an anocracy can be turned around. Here, the author refers to a piece of work she was commissioned with in 2014, for the World Bank. Like other scholars, the author found three factors standing out by far as being critical for preventing descent into conflict and chaos, including civil war: (1) The Rule of Law; (2) Voice and Accountability; (3) Government effectiveness. So, we will have to think about how we translate these fundamentals into concrete action allowing people all over the world to trust the form of governance which we say is the best of all alternatives we have been able to come up with so far.

So, here we are again. It is why any effort getting us collectively out of the currently very troubled waters must look at the rule of law, which Walter describes as “the equal and impartial application of legal procedure”. I stick to the definition of the rule of law as adopted by the United Nations: “For the United Nations (UN) system, the rule of law is a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency.

However, my experience entails that in order to establish any rule of law, there needs to be a large consent of the respective society in how this principle is applied, and this consent must go beyond any larger factionalisation in that society. Any large faction of a society must accept this larger principle, rather than challenging the application of a rule of law as being biased, being imposed on them by other factions. Those who stir conflict for advancing their own objectives, they always will establish a narrative that there is no justice for their constituency. They will portray the rule of law as being a weapon wielded by their enemies against them. What these individuals do is to undermine the trust of their followers in a rule of law applied to their society as a whole. Which points to a second invisible feature of any successful establishing a rule of law: Trust.

It is about trust accepting the specific rule of law, for myself, and others, for the powerful and the less powerful. And it is about trusting that justice will always attempt to prevail, no matter how long it takes. Because very often, it can take a long time. And still, after many years, cases may be unresolved, often are. A society at large must trust the course which justice takes, even if individual members experience pain because their grievances are open and festering wounds for many years, before closure is possible, or sometimes even never.

For me, this challenge can be seen nowhere else with all clarity than in situations where I contributed to the efforts to re-establish a rule of law in a society where it had broken down. May be I will write more about a few of those experiences. Here it would be too long, because I want to finally focus again on the critical role of social media. Here is just one example:

There were two main ethnic factions in Kosovo before and after the violence ending in 1999. Under the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 Kosovo found herself with a majority and a minority faction, no form of own governance at all, and no rule of law beyond what UNSCR 1244 tasked us with. The Old had broken down and had to disengage. The New was not there. It was to be established, and being part of the international community engaging in assisting in finding a new New, I was representing the international interim police.

Whilst, on a technical level of developing policing, and helping a new Kosovo Police to emerge, being more and more successful, we found ourselves in a classical “Catch-22-situation”: All factions involved were blaming us not being able to provide security, and justice. Each side would accuse us to act on the interest of the other side’s agenda. And practically it meant that in case of any evidence of a severe crime which would allow us to make arrests, and prosecute suspects of grievious crime, there would not be a societal consent, or trust beyond factions. At least at the beginning. During those early years, any action by us leading to an arrest would be perceived by one faction as a biased, if not politically motivated, action in favor of the other faction. I have many examples for both factions.

I believe that, over time, some trust could be instilled. Not only that the Kosovan society at large moved forward towards healing from own wounds. Not only that our persistent sticking to a common rule of law for All slowly helped in setting some foundations for trust. Not only that the real success story is the work on the credibility of the Kosovo Police itself, establishing itself as a trusted actor within an emerging rule of law. But any development until today also shows how fragile this trust is. Including in recent times, operational situations can demonstrate how quickly old tensions, mistrust, and biased interpretation of events can break up. But what I want to demonstrate here is exactly that: That any rule of law is critical for peace&security in a society, and that this does go way beyond the technical application of such a principle.

It requires acceptance of that rule of law by a majority of all constituencies in a society, and it requires a sound trust in the equal application and adjucation of that rule of law, beyond personal grievances, and existing factions.

As said earlier (in my first blog article on this book), this holds true both for a society moving towards a rule of law, and it applies to a society where the efforts of trusting a rule of law are heavily undermined by the spreading of misinformation and fake news. Whether the society moves into a positive direction or a negative direction, it is the middle zone between the Old and the New which makes the situation most volatile.

All three factors mentioned by Barbara F. Walter, (1) The Rule of Law; (2) Voice and Accountability; (3) Government effectiveness played into any descent into chaos I have personally witnessed.

In 2022, the means to disrupt by using manipulative voice and amplifying non-accountability are a global challenge: Social media has become a bull-horn for those who know how to exploit fragility, and to further it.

So, how to translate Barbara F. Walter’s message, that civil wars can be avoided, into practice?

By taking responsibility for own action, and making our voices of reason being heard, day by day. Neil Young requested from Spotify to remove his music from the platform because Spotify is hosting “The Joe Rogan Experience”. Neil Young did not want to be on a platform which prominently features a protagonist for this type of spreading misinformation, lies, and manipulation, including wildest conspiracy theories about some mass-hypnosis being used by a global cabale enslaving citizens. Joni Mitchell followed suit, and she is not the only one.

This fight is taking us on a long haul, it is far from being over. Every personal contribution matters.

Anocracies – And Thoughts on International Efforts Related to Conflict Prevention

Anocracy or semi-democracy is, according to Wikipedia, a “form of government that is loosely defined as part democracy and part dictatorship, or as a “regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features.” Another definition classifies anocracy as “a regime that permits some means of participation through opposition group behavior but that has incomplete development of mechanisms to redress grievances.” The term “semi-democratic” is reserved for stable regimes that combine democratic and authoritarian elements. Scholars have also distinguished anocracies from autocracies and democracies in their capability to maintain authority, political dynamics, and policy agendas. Similarly, the regimes have democratic institutions that allow for nominal amounts of competition. Such regimes are particularly susceptible to outbreaks of armed conflict and unexpected or adverse changes in leadership.”


In my blog post “Under The Hood” I wrote that I had pre-ordered “How Civil Wars Start And How To Stop Them”, written by Barbara F. Walter (Crown, 2022, Ebook ISBN 9780593137796). After its publication date it got delivered (in my case as an Apple iBook). I am reading it now, and it is as good as it was assessed in that New York Times book recension. As it was said in that recension, Barbara F. Walter spends much of the first half of the book on a profound history of nearly every civil war haunting mankind in the past many decades before beginning to apply the results of academic research of political scientists on civil wars to the situation of the United States of America.

I am through the first half of the book, and inasmuch as I am now keenly reading her account of the more recent developments in the U.S., I am not intending to write on that subject matter. I have an opinion there, and I share the author’s risk assessment, but this public discourse is already ongoing in the U.S.: Look here and here.

I wanted to reflect on a few general observations that stem from the book’s solid comparative approach of recent situations which led to wide-spread violence, and the solid and vast description of the state of affairs of a number of contemporary nation states. After all, no country is exempted from the danger of plunging into wide-spread violence, just pretending “It can’t happen to us” is nothing less than dangerous denial and wishful thinking of the ostrich burying her head in the sand. In this, Barbara F. Walter’s book establishes itself in the same rational and academic realm as the books “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism” by Anne Applebaum and “Fascism: A Warning” by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.


My line of work has frequently put me into situations where we have wondered how one can measure the risk of a country or constituency descending into violent forms of conflict, including civil war. On several occasions I have been part of the international community’s peacekeeping efforts following the outbreak and the aftermath of civil war. Operationally and strategically I was part of such efforts in Kosovo under the United Nations’ mandate through Security Council Resolution 1244. Strategically I was part of such efforts in situations such as in Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, the Central African Republic, Somalia, and several more.

Then there is peacebuilding: How to make sure that a successful peacekeeping engagement finds its continuation through peacebuilding, and leads to a stable peaceful environment that will not relapse into conflict? That’s one of the elements of my current line of work, or why I was operationally working in Bosnia&Hercegovina, or strategically in headquarters of UN and EU on a large number of similar situations in greater Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the Carribean.

Finally, there is conflict prevention: I often sat in meetings with like-minded peacekeepers and peacebuilders where we dealt with conflict prevention. Meaning to extinguish the fire when it was starting small, or even better: To help keeping things stable long before they reach critical mass of instability, and to find ways helping a country, or a constituency, in efforts to resolve disputes peacefully, and to succeed in that. Here I will not give examples. There were a number of cases in which I participated and where we could help in de-confliction of interests, and peaceful resolving of grievances. Those cases did not lead to bad-news-stories, in the general public they went almost entirely unrecognized, and good-news-stories sometimes can not be told in order to keep the good news continuing.

Those stories also don’t sell. Even in the “normal” world of crime, crime prevention does not attract the same interest by readers as the gruesome murder story does. Prevention is the silent humble sister of the guys and gals in military and police fatigues. Repression, threat, coercion, and the use of force, all too often these stories outrun any peaceful piece of news. This is the achilles-heel of prevention, and exponentially more so since the advent of social-media, whose algorithms prefer stories, fake or true, that create viral attention: Stories that create anger will always knock out the stories of crime that never happened. Even cute-cats-stories outrun every story about a conflict which never happened because we all did the right things.


In all those discussions on how to prevent conflict better, we asked ourselves how to asses and to measure the risk of conflict with hard numbered indicators. I remember reading the book “The Responsibility To Protect” by Gareth Evans. Evans, one of the chief architects of a concept called R2P, which tragically failed, at one point mentions the many efforts of academia to come up with a measurable set of indicators. He stated that for many years there was inconclusive academic research on that. In his book he mentioned that only one hard statistical fact could be boiled down: That conflict is much more likely in a country where there was one -more recently- before.

For years, I accepted that. Barbara F. Walter’s book has profoundly changed this view. May be I did personally not notice, or may be it is more of a late-breaking recognition, but according to Walter political science has made tremendous progress and has developed a sophisticated set of predictors, or risk indicators, based on sound bodies of empirical data in at least three very large and internationally recognized data-sets. In order to keep this a relatively easy read, I won’t go into details. The book is very captivating and it is very comprehensible. I truly enjoy the way how hard science is transformed into popular language by Barbara F. Walter. There is no need to undergo a 101 course in political sciences, so instead of summarizing a detailed book, I recommend reading it yourself.


Walter’s book has drawn my attention to three factors that increase the potential for, and are the reasons for, civil wars. Academic research appears to have managed to put these three factors into a rock-hard framework of statistical measurability: (1) Transitions from one system of governance to another system of governance; (2) Factionalisation in societies; (3) The drastic effects of social media.


(1) Transitions from one system of governance to another system of governance

For me, one important contribution of Barbara F. Walter’s book sits with drawing attention to process, rather than a snapshot of a state of affairs in time. Any form of governance can be categorized, and put on a scale. A true representation of all common criteria for a democracy can put a State into a category of “best in class”. Another State can be a full representation of what we call an autocracy. That State would be on the opposite side of that scale. From the viewpoint of a true defender of democratic values, that would bring this State into the zone of “worst in class”. Of course, “the other side of the aisle” would disagree with that judgement, and there we are in a polarized discussion.

But the true focus of Barbara F. Walter is not on the snapshot where a State finds herself on such a scale. It is about the movement from one end to the other, in both directions, and it is about the speed of that process. A State can find herself on the path towards more autocratic forms of government, or on the path from autocratic governance towards democratic governance. Political science has established evidence for that the “middle zone” between one form of governance and another form of governance is the most dangerous and volatile area, and the faster the transitional process from democracy towards autocracy, or from autocracy to democracy, the more risk for wide-spread violence exists on a statistical level.

And this makes perfect sense. Here is my attempt to visualize it:

It means that the “door swings in both directions”: The risk of violence does not only exist in a situation where a country is slipping towards semi-autocratic or fully-autocratic forms of governance. The same risk exists in a situation where interested parties, supported by the international community for example, engage in promoting and establishing regime change towards democracy. Barbara F. Walter makes it clear that the risk for violence is highest when this process into either direction has placed the constituency in question into the middle zone, when transformational change is most unfinished, with the old being ripped down and the new not yet formed and rooted.

Secondly, science tells us that, again, the risk is quantifiably higher if the process of transformation is either too slow or too fast, for which there can be many reasons. From how I look at things from my own experience, it is scientific evidence for what happens when the international community pushes too fast, is compartmentalised in such efforts, displays not enough comprehensive depth in supporting transformational change, nor patience for a long-term coherent support approach based on vision and strategy. Which I often saw when international mandates and policy discussions were held unter terms such as “democratization”, or “state building”.


(2) Factionalisation in societies

The second aspect in Barbara F. Walter’s book is a comprehensive analysis of previous civil wars and the relation between constituencies moving into the “danger zone” of being an anocracy, and the existence of factions in these societies. Also here, the book is very comprehensive in giving a detailed account for a vast array of previous civil wars. In my reading this book, one aspect stood out: Any change of one system through which a state applies governance to citizens towards another set of governance rules inevitably leads to the demise of old elites and the struggle which is happening when new elites try to form, and old elites fight to participate in societal control, for their benefits. This is the second factor which makes the “danger zone” so volatile, and the book provides detailed analytical results to the question when, how, and why this leads to violence. I want to highlight one sentence:

“Remember, it’s not the desperately poor who start civil wars, but those who once had privilege and feel they are losing status they feel is rightfully theirs”.

Likewise I quote her account on a declassified CIA report from 2012: “Most insurgencies, the report notes, “pass through similar stages of development during their life cycle.” In the pre-insurgency phase, a group begins to identify a set of common grievances and build a collective identity around a gripping narrative—the story or myth that helps them rally supporters and justify their actions. They begin to recruit members, some of whom even travel abroad for training. They begin to stockpile arms and supplies.

I note that it is the last sentence which connects my current line of work with the larger picture.

Then Barbara F. Walter goes on to analyze the role of social media in contemporary conflicts:


(3) The drastic effects of social media

Social media acts like the proverbial gasoline poured on a fire. By now, many of us have begun to appreciate this very dark side of a technology which also has contributed so much to bringing us close together in a global world. The author’s account on how social media has been, and continues to be, systematically exploited by those who seek control, including by inciting violence, is nothing short of scathing criticism. Again, the book is unbiased by taking a very comprehensive view on situations of recent violence, and contemporary situations in countries all around the globe, within something which appears to be a rising global pattern of instability, emerging and brooding conflict. She refers to solid data that would allow to conclude that there is a clear connection between the exponential rise of volatile situations and war on one hand, and the the abuse of social media for that purpose on the other hand. It is here where the role of social media and its systematic and professional exploitation by reckless individuals and groups is pervasive. Whereas encouraging factionalism on religious, ethnic, racial, or any grounds has been the key defining modus operandi of individuals manipulating populations into fear and hate of the other, and the acceptance that “Dear Leader” may be the lesser evil, contemporary situations are characterised by a systematic manipulation of many, through some, using social media. The book demonstrates this in Myanmar, in countries in Europe including Eastern and Central Europe, and elsewhere, before even beginning to analyse what happened in the U.S. in recent years.

Our societies struggle with the question of how to apply accountability and regulative frameworks to this new phenomenon. Because, new it is: The effects of how social media can be used for manipulation, inciting hatred, and fueling violence, they may be just ten years old. But they are extremely transformative. And again, we see different approaches in relation to how to control social media in China or Russia, say compared to how open societies handle this challenge. But what we also see: Aspiring autocrats virtuously use social media to gain control. After that, these individuals will undertake everything to control the instrument they have used.

Because, they know better than anyone else how it can be used to their advantage, and against them.


This got long again. I leave it without conclusions, simply because there are so many. This is true for a paradigm change on how we consider engaging in conflict prevention in a world filled with old instruments of international order which require overhaul, or may be outdated if we don’t succeed in transforming them into effective tools. This is also true for how we accept our being affected by what we call “social media”. Personally, I feel this question may belong to the most important ones in our lifetime, in all aspects of our lives.

Kinderwhore – A Book About Unspeakable Truths

This morning I need to work on something very boring in my line of work: The analysis of data that we call “Key Performance Indicators”. These KPI measure the progress being made in controlling Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), within a regional strategy of the six jurisdictions of the Western Balkans to adress all related illicit aspects of such weapons and their ammunition, their intent to reduce the threat coming from such weapons and their stockpiles, their efforts to curb crime, including transnational organized crime, their efforts to protect victims and preventing future victims, their efforts to establish a gender-balanced policy.

But in order to motivate myself to boring number-crunching, I needed to get something else off my chest first:


My commenting on today’s selection of “real world real news” (the opposite of “real world fake news”) begins with a tennis story.

I was baffled about how rapidly the news on the controversy over Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa application caught international media attention. Sorts of with half on an eye I monitored those news, since I was neither interested in tennis news, nor in celebrity news. The kindling of national pride in Serbia was not surprising me at all, and that the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic spoke with Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in a call on Monday and emphasised Djokovic’s need for good training conditions, oh well, good for Novak, I thought. I don’t have to read these news in my news reader, since I don’t get my newsfeed from any social media company, but from a carefully curated own list of sources.

Until I read a piece in the New York Times from January 11, 2022, titled “Novak Djokovic’s Fight to Play Tennis Could Be Just Starting“. Looking at Djokovic’s victory in fighting his quarantine-detention in Australia, I glimpsed something far beyond the complicated legal battle in Australia which this player, who is an outspoken adversary to Covid-19-vaccinations, has won for the moment.

Because this issue may now affect each and every reporting about future tennis tournaments. It may fuel any heated argument, whether it is about the same rules applying for all, whether it is about victimisation on a personal level and then fueling nationalism and pride, or whether it is about the anti-vaxxer-movement using the story for further radicalisation through distorted reporting and commenting within social media – based circles. The powerful lens for such possible manipulation will include the celebrity involved, and the news factor related to tennis as a sport.

There is more to come on this one. By the way, the NYT reports Djokovic as “having earned about $154 million in career prize money and hundreds of millions more off court”. Taking my distance from the celebrity side of media reporting again, I finally refer to the assessment of the NYT “while Djokovic won in court on Monday, he has undoubtedly lost support in some chambers of the court of public opinion, though he has become a martyr for the anti-vaccine movement and among his countrymen.I would say: This has just begun, more is to be revealed, and it may not going to be a good story.


From the celebrity circus and the glamour moving into a stark contrast between rich and poor:

In another piece of today’s news, it is the New York Times again which I quote with a report titled “Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Virus Tests Per Month“. Of course, this move of the Biden administration is good. It forces private insurance companies to pay for up to eight at-home-tests for those in the United States who do enjoy private health insurance. Again, good for them.

But I can’t help also connecting this piece of news on what wealthy nations can do for their, increasingly discontent, citizens with a story about citizens in some of the poorest countries of this world. The United Nations assesses that 97% of all Afghan families might soon be under what would be considered a threshold of being “poor”. The UN assesses that more than half of the Afghan population may face severe hunger soon. There is more to this story in the German “Tagesschau”, but that is going to be part of the third section of this blog entry. For the moment, I just wanted to reflect on an extremely stark contrast between “rich” and whatever that means, and “poor”, whatever that means. Citizens in one country may benefit from provision of eight Covid-tests per month for free, while this report demonstrates that families in Afghanistan may live on a daily budget of 50 (Euro)Cent, if at all. The Afghan population faces a winter with poverty and cold weather, and much of this also has to do with the international community having frozen all forms of previous financial support and assistance to the country, in order to avoid any support to an illegitimitate Taleban-Government.

Sanctions always hit those the hardest which we seek to protect from suppression, injustice, violence, violation of human rights. We know about this conundrum, but that doesn’t mean that we shall just get used to such horror. The fact that previously, according to the report, up to 75 % of the domestic budget of Afghanistan came from international financial support makes it even more difficult to stomach these news. How do we deal with a situation which, for whatever reason, also directly relates to decisions of engagement over two decades leading to extreme corruption and dependency, and which, for whatever reason, led to the chaotic disengagement of the summer of 2021? Those who suffered from corruption, insecurity, and war, for 20 years, they are the same who suffer now. They won’t forget, and generations to come may also not be ready to forgive.


The same Tagesschau-report on Afghanistan informing us about a daily income of 50 (Euro)Cent or less, or about that those families hope to survive the winter on small coal stockpiles which they bought on credit, not knowing how to repay debts, it also reports on a growing number of families selling their daughters in order to gain income.

Selling their daughters. Into marriage. Under-aged daughters. Selling them. 300 Dollar per sale. Increasingly because of poverty and hunger not keeping these daughters “safe” until they reach an age of fifteen years, but also to give them to the future husband directly after the sale. Children. Young children. Selling them because of financial needs to survive the winter. Turning them over to a man in another family, who considers this child to be his future wife. Who considers owning this child.

Forced marriages are part of a number of cultures, we fight them through all our concerted efforts promoting the rights of women, girls, underaged children in general, and minorities. I have often written about it. Beyond a general expression of horror it is extremely challenging to judge the impact of such a decision on the development of an under-aged girl. Everything we judge about it is including a value-system which may be foreign in those societies.

But here is at least one thing I can say for sure: Consider that this report includes that even the societal protection to such a girl by keeping her with the family of origin until she reaches the age of fifteen is being given up. That a child at an age of ten, or well below, faces a transfer to another man as her future husband. And please, all those men who then treat such a future wife with respect and care, as is appropriate in your society, I mean no disrespect, though my stomach revolts.

Yet, there is no doubt on my mind that many of those under-age girls will end up in abuse, including sexual abuse. I just know, because this criminal behavior transcends any cultural border. Sexual abuse, including most severe forms, is universal, rather than limited to some societies.

I may fail to understand in detail the trauma impact on a girl in a society alien to me. I am only certain that the trauma is massive. How massive? How to relate to the plight of the abused if any understanding of her suffering fails? Which leads me to my encouraging any Western reader to consider my book recommendation:


If you look up the term “Kinderwhore“, some of the returned results will refer to a clothing style worn by some sub-cultures.

Then there is a book with that title by Deanna M. Lehman, and it is a biography about a sexually abused girl in the United States. And then there is a book with the same title by Maria Kjos Fonn and Gabriele Haefs (who translated the book into German).

I am reading “Kinderwhore” by Maria Kjos Fonn in the German eBook edition (© CulturBooks Verlag 2019, ISBN 978-3-95988-145-6). The original book was printed in Norway. Here is a short overview page maintained by the Oslo Literary Agency. I tried to look up whether the entire book is available in English language. I could find sample pages, but I don’t know for sure.

There is no doubt on my mind that Charlotte, the fictional character in this book, represents a real person, and her experiences. It is impossible to come up with a story like this without a true case behind. A case of True Crime, I should like to say. You can download an English translation of 36 sample pages from this site.

I quote from that site: “Charlotte’s mother is always at home, yet hardly ever there. Most of the time she is asleep, heavily medicated in order to remain so. When she is not asleep, she brings home new dads for Charlotte. One of them shows her a glimpse of something else, something better. But too soon, he is replaced by yet another dad. When Charlotte is 12 something happens, something she cannot possibly take in or process. She starts making use of her mother’s pills, happy to learn that there are ways of shutting off your feelings. She establishes a divide between her body and mind, allowing her to take on different sexual roles, like the sedated, passive Doll or the proactive Machine.”

This “something” happening to Charlotte, it is the sexual molestation, the continued sexual abuse, the most painful ordeal of continued rape of a child, by her mother’s boyfriend. And the book is about Charlotte’s survival.

I really have no appropriate words for this book, I feel that any comment on the suffering of the main character would be helpless, incomplete, utterly disrespectful. I have though, the deepest respect for the person behind the fictional character of Charlotte to put her experiences into words. Nothing else would be possible for me than to say “I am deeply sorry for what you had to go through”, and even this feels clumsy, as it includes the past tense.

So, in order to focus my thoughts, I should try to conclude by saying: I have friends with similar experiences. Quite some. I do know about the authenticity described in this book from own experience in my circle of friends. That is why I relate to the fate of those Afghan girls sold into marriage and being given to their future husbands at the age of children.

I encourage you to read the book, or the English sample text.

With that, the World may revert to the plight of Novak. Sorry, Novak, I am sure your legal contestation is justified. That’s all okay, I am using your case as an example putting things into proportion, and for a call for compassion. Please, let us not forget the plight of those who really suffer. And put action to where our mouths are.


Back to my Key Performance Indicators now…