Qatar, The Man Who Wears Too Much Cologne

Damnation. I have a Birkenstock tan on my feet. I self-consciously run into the swimming pool the moment I notice, pretending the floor is hot as I ooo-ahh my way into the cool water and give a pretend sigh of relief to the family staring at me. As usual, I am too busy being concerned about what other people think that I found myself making the same mistakes, and it was later that afternoon I realised I was once again negligent with the sunscreen. I cursed at myself as I visually toured my body in the bathroom mirror, peering over the tan lines that were all over me from my midriff to the sides of my neck. I look like a harpsichord!

Apart from the self-effacing critique worthy of any thespian tragedy, I will admit spending the incredibly hot day on Banana Island after a ridiculous fifteen hour flight from Melbourne to Doha was exactly what I needed. If it weren’t for the gruesome exhaustion, however, I would likely hate this place. The superficiality, the plastic plants, the buffet of cheesecakes made from artificial powder all of which I avoided. Resorts are not my thing, but maybe it is the type of place for families with children who can enjoy the recreational activities available, or the pretentious who want to relish in their wealth. It can cost a hefty amount to stay there, but luckily they offer day tickets for outsiders like me to visit and for 350 riyal, you can get a ferry to the island and some food and recreational vouchers.

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The Paradox of Empathy: Is Good Behaviour Selfish?

Most everyone agrees that a just society promotes equality among its citizens, but blood is spilled over what sort of equality is morally preferable ~ Paul Bloom

Honour is a rather fickle word. As one raised in a country that promotes the individual character, I find the tribalism and public shaming aroused by the misconceptions surrounding honour to be incredibly confronting, particularly since it allows biased men to believe they are permitted or authorised to behave badly, especially towards women. Honour killings, acid throwing, FGM to name a few. Gangs that deal drugs and commit heinous crimes still have a code of “honour” between them and so it raises the question on whether the idea of honour is just moral romanticism. Honour is one of many words – including empathy and love – that we need to question. If we think about extreme political violence and the dehumanisation of groups of people, such as when millions were murdered during the holocaust, it was the false propaganda used against them that targeted empathy – Jews were “bad” because they hurt children and stole money – and so it was empathy that allowed the entire population to believe that they were doing the right thing by killing the “bad” people.

Psychopaths are incredibly successful in manipulating and targeting the empathy in others in order to obtain a desired and often violent outcome, but far greater in our society is the narcissist that – while mostly nonviolent – often target those who are highly empathetic knowing that performing on social cues, they will receive what they desire in return. If a narcissist only cares about admiration, money, sex, and freedom or entertainment, their true character is easily exposed by taking away the very thing they seek and so they become enraged, vengeful and malicious. Narcissists are the individual equivalent to political entities who dehumanise groups, because they do not actually care about others unless they obtain something from them and in the process dehumanise the worth of the other person.

There is a word in Turkish that hasn’t the English equivalent called vicdansız and it translates to someone who is unconscionable, yet, unlike this lack of conscience used to explain psychopaths in criminal law, vicdansız is a type of remorseless behaviour where someone is unable to see their own wrongdoing in all situations, not just criminal and therefore more aligned with narcissism. I realised, however, that an empathetic person who intends to do and seek goodness can actually do more damage without realising, perhaps while assuming they are doing good in much the same way as a narcissist is often unaware. As such, there is a distinction between ethical behaviour and selfish behaviour that needs to be addressed. A good action with selfish intentions does not necessarily undermine the good act, but it resists the authenticity of the act making it ethical, yes, but selfish at the same time. What does that exactly mean?

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Syria: The Past. The Present. The Future?

My brief experience recently visiting Turkey has completely transformed me. With all the challenges that I faced, one of the greatest was failing to understand the sheer scale of the devastation the Syrian war has inflicted on so many innocent people. It is well known that while I have an impenetrable and staunch commitment to human rights, I am also extremely empathetic to a point that I almost feel the suffering of others and this pain has vicariously and rather deeply hurt. I felt helpless, heartbroken, desperate and unable to speak to anyone, the indifference only perpetuated the feelings I was having.

With my professional experience in human rights and procurement, I intend to return with close friends and bring with me the funding necessary to assist those who are most vulnerable and in need as we together support one another to face the struggles we are likely to encounter. The most important, however, is to bring an understanding of the history and the politics of the region that has wreaked such havoc and caused so much unnecessary suffering. The civil war in Syria has seen more than half a million innocent people killed since it began in 2011, with 5.7 million refugees fleeing the country and 6.1 million internally displaced. Thousands upon thousands of people have died that have never had the respect and dignity of a burial. What happened in Syria that caused such horror?

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Brentano: On New Beginnings

The phenomena revealed by inner perception are also subject to laws. The laws of coexistence and succession of mental phenomena remain the object of investigation even for those who deny psychology any knowledge of the soul.

As a law student, I was called The Lioness because it was obvious that within me burnt the fierce fire of justice. My commitment to righteousness can be so intense that I would not hesitate to fight to the death for it, to remain alone, lose the people that I love, all my material objects, even my own life. From large scale offenses to very minute actions, goodness and good behaviour matters to me.

In some cases, however, my interpretation of some of these offenses have been incorrect. My own psychological perceptions become exhausted and embedded into the interpretation that confuse what I may call an offense with something that I personally find offensive, two very different realities. How can we understand the difference between this subjectivity and objective reality, to separate ourselves and our personal interpretations with universal concepts of justice and righteousness?

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Fly Away

Blood-stained feather underneath her arm,

Bitter lick.

Above her tongue.

Smooth, red drink. Thickened barbs.

“Why?” she cries.

Telescopic eyes pierce the vaults of heaven.

Stiffened vanes, clipped wings stretched out to dry.

She tries to fly.

Scissor paws, growling teeth clentched beside her.

Imprisoned. Raped from her destiny.

I pray, drained, embalmed from hope

But I pray, still,

That she flies one day.

Magnificent Medieval Münster

“Ah, excuse me?” I said to the naked man who just walked into the sauna. He spins around, muttering “yes?” and I can see it from the corner of my eye swinging like a grandfather clock, despite trying to look away.

“Do you mind? Cover yourself up please, we are in a public place.”

He responded in bad English. “In Germany, we are no clothes in Sauna, yes?” He seemed genuinely surprised at my discomfort. The first live penis I have ever seen just happened in a sauna in Germany, so surprised was the least of my emotions.

I love saunas. I join gyms that I know has one just to gain access to it, but in Australia we wear swimsuits and cover ourselves with towels. It was pointless trying to make a point about decency, I was after all in his country, so I quickly got up and left, speed-walking back to my hotel room to have a cold shower. The male form is pretty disgusting, although this eighty-something year old man was probably not the best visual introduction to it.

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