Monthly Archives: May 2014

EUROPE – The Great War…

…and why you should vote in the elections for the European Parliament

Ninety-nine years and ten months ago, or to state it exactly, on 28 July 1914, the Great War – World War I – broke out. In the long aftermath of World War II, this earlier conflagration takes a backseat in our minds when considering the enormous tragedies that occurred in the twentieth century. For this reason it is well and good that the centenary of the war’s commencement is being highlighted throughout 2014.

Every historian and commentator of note is quoting Christopher Clarke’s monumental work, The Sleepwalkers, in which he documents how the governments and monarchs of the time allowed the continent – and beyond – to slip into a war that would permanently change the landscape of Europe, and in its wake, create the conditions that caused the following war. If there had been no Great War, the second one would not have happened.

Can one ever speak of a good after-effect of war? If so, then we must count the post-World War II efforts on the part of the leaders of France and Germany to develop the trade agreements and cultural exchanges that would gradually lead to the founding of the European Common Market and, its ultimate form, the European Union.

On Sunday, 25 May, European citizens are called upon to vote for the European Parliament. To many, this is a governing body of little interest, a talk-shop of bureaucrats, seemingly possessing only the power to regulate the curvature of the banana or the size of condoms. However, despite its sometimes annoying attempt to  standardize portions of our lives that we didn’t realize needed it, it is also an important element holding the member countries of the European Union together and the only organ of the European organization in which citizens have a direct voice.

Do not give your voice away by not voting or by voting for populist or nationalist parties, who are by nature reactionary. Do we really want a Europe reverting to its 19th century state of individual nations that only understand the world from parochial perspectives? Doing that would mean missing the larger view of a continent that must accept its responsibility as a global player and grasp the opportunities that position presents. The current situation in Ukraine should make us think twice.

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Filed under German History, Politics

Seeing the World through New Eyes

Getting older does not have many up-sides. Looking for them is like panning for gold: You have to sift through a lot of water and dirt in that mountain stream before a nugget flashes in the pan. But at least gold is worth something. If and when you do think you have found one redeeming aspect of old age, you still have to spin it in every direction until you can twist it to your advantage. Indeed, it’s extremely rare to find a side effect of aging that can be spun so successfully that you wind up seeing yourself in better shape than when you were young. But bingo! I have just discovered one and it’s a real winner. A simple operation, well, two to be exact, can change the way you see your world. And I mean that quite literally.

I’ve just experienced those two painless little operations that removed my cataract damaged lenses. In days of yore, having them treated would have left me suffering, dependent on wearing spectacles with Coke bottle bottoms for lenses (…if you are old enough to remember when Coke was sold in glass bottles and what they looked like…). Now I exited my clever eye doctor’s operating room with sparkling new models inserted into my eyes, little plastic affairs that never need cleaning or replacement. No more traveling with contact lens solutions, cleaners and a pair of specs (just in case). It was a pleasure clearing the clutter off my bathroom shelf.

This is what “days of yore” means.

Before the operation I was counting the days until I would be healed. After the right eye was done, I was stunned by the real color of sunlight. For you out there who aren’t aware of it: Sunlight is WHITE! I tested it back and forth – the yellowed, muted vision of the world through the old lens, then the the same scene bathed in pristine white light through the new lens. What a revelation!

In the meantime the second eye has been rejuvenated; the jaundiced perspective is gone forever. After a lifetime of relying on glasses and contact lenses, I have now been granted 20/20 vision. With reading and writing as my most favorite activities, I see this medical miracle as a little insurance policy that improves my chances of actually being able to read the library of literature I’ve been hoarding for retirement. Not to mention write the novels still lurking somewhere inside my being.

So if you have been told you will be needing this surgery, I can tell you, do not postpone it. Book it today!

Now, I’m thinking, if I can just keep my own teeth, maintain bladder control and not lose my marbles for the duration of my dotage, old age may just be more tolerable than anticipated. Pretty big “ifs”, you say?



Filed under Ageing