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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European Union Hypocrisy

Twenty years ago, the European Union began discussions with the Mercosur bloc of countries in South America – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – and only recently this historic agreement was officially signed that will successfully reduce billions of dollars in costs for both sides. The EU-Mercosur deal will both strengthen the relationship with European countries by removing duties on goods and improving an integrated market system, but also by modernising the challenging Mercosur system will improve agreements with South America beyond Europe, including Asia and the United States.

The agreement predominately includes the agricultural market – namely, beef – in exchange for cars and other items all with reduced tariffs. Included in this EU-Mercosur deal is the commitment by each of the signatories to climate change with reference to the Paris Climate Agreement. The agreement included targets by the year 2020 to reduce COemissions and Brazil is a signatory committed to the reduction of the global threat of climate change. The agreement ensured that all parties involved will improve and adopt a sustainable, low-carbon economy inclusive of mitigation strategies.

A sustainable, low-carbon economy. Cars? Cows? Mass deforestation? Read More

On Love, King Suleiman, and the Old City of Istanbul

“Mum, he doesn’t speak English?” I sent on WhatsApp with a confused 😕 emoji face. She is trying to set me up as I prepare for my visit to Turkey.

“Sorry,” she responded (#sorrynotsorry). She is desperate to see her youngest daughter marry. Both my parents live in Adana and for them, love is simple, practical. “You complicate everything!” she often says. “You look too deep and think too much!” She  has never understood me when I say I am searching for love, someone that I love and respect, which is a pretty challenging feat given that my standards are almost biblical.

Maybe she is right, that maybe I think too much, but it seems like all the men I meet are liars, superficial and vain, and if not, cowardly and afraid of going against the grain of social cliches, my pessimism only deepened by those who, after being viciously sexist or violent, insincerely apologise before going on to pretend that they are feminists and congratulating themselves as though they are good people. It feels as though I will never meet a man I respect.

I switch off my phone and place it in my bag as I arrange my luggage in the overhead lockers on the plane, on my way to Istanbul. I hate flying. Short flights. Long-haul flights. I quit my job recently because it required me to regularly travel across Australia. This flight was particularly bad, as though the unpleasant and exhausted flight attendants believed that ignoring your requests with an indifferent smile was equal to customer service and I spent half the time worried I might do something wrong that would permit their wrath. Read More