COMING SOON on Project O

An exclusive interview with Opinionated Man and vicbriggs on Project O: http://aopinionatedman.com/category/project-o/

Fiction? Hell yes! But why should that not make it real?

Watch this space. Will let you know the date and time of its appearance on Project O’s home blog.

Meanwhile, check out my original contribution to the project here: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/project-o/

A good day to you all from vampire land!

Liebster Award Nominations

Liebster Award Continued: Additional Q&A

Many thanks, tas, mercis and dankes to Alienorajt and Cornerofrain for nominating me for this award. Amazing people! Love your writing and congratulations on being nominated too.
Check out what they’ve been up to at http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/ and http://cornerofrain.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/1338/ respectively.
Another nomination. I’m touched and my grateful thank you goes to RandomlySpeakingUnorthodoxly for another Liebster nomination. I’ve added my answers to the questions at the top of the list. The last one inspired me to write the State of Syria post – such a great question. Truly thankful to have been given the opportunity to offer my opinion on the matter.
You can support RandomlySpeakingUnorthodoxly’s writing by checking it out here: http://fixatedann.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-liebster-award-yippee/

LiebsterThe Liebster Award Rules: 

You must link back the person who nominated you and answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.

You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award with under 200 followers and come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer and notify your nominees.

I’ll have to reblog my answers with a running commentary in a surreal interview 🙂

Here they are plain and simple for now:

1. Randomly Speaking Unorthodoxly Q&A with vicbriggs:

Where are you from, were you born there?

I’m European, born at its edges, in a small country that looks like a tall-hatted shepherd walking on the sea-shore. It’s in-between Romania and Ukraine, across the sea from Turkey.

Why do you choose to blog?

This is a similar question to the one asked by Alieonorajt 🙂 I’ll see if I can add to my previous reply here.

I am a writer, a story-teller. I wanted to share my story, some of which is happy, some of which is painful. Blogging is a good way to do it. If what I write helps at least one other person in some way then mission accomplished.

Do you think writing can somewhat help to heal depression?

It is certainly helped me a great deal with that. But writing is only part of the answer. Speaking out is equally important.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

On a mountaintop, catching sunrays.

Amidst the waves, searching for peace.

In a field of violets, with my beloved.

Do you play an instrument?

I allow my fingers some repose on the ivories of a piano. My love of music is a gift from my father; a fire reignited by a stranger one melancholy evening some two years ago.

Are you a professional Writer? If you aren’t what is your profession? Would you choose another profession?

I am a writer. Whether I am a professional writer, I do not know. Writing is first and foremost a labour of love to me. I’d keep writing even if I never got paid for one word of it.

Do you have a bucket list? Care to share?

Haha. No. I don’t have a bucket list. Perhaps I should get one.

I’ve been lucky enough to have accomplished everything I set my mind to up to now. There is still a project or two I’d like to finish, but I’m sure I will get there in time.

Do you write poetry?

Yes. I also love reading poetry. I’ve been out of practice with both these last two years, but being part of this community helps with both.

Do you believe in marriage/divorce? State with reasons.

I believe in relationships and in their ability to endure, whether they are ratified by the state or not.

When people grow apart however, sometimes divorce is the only answer, perhaps the best one. I’ve grown up with parents who kept their marriage going for the sake of the children. It’s done more damage than good, and it made me realise that while many relationships are worth the work, but shouldn’t be saved at any cost.

What are your thoughts on the current battle with Syria?

I love your politically-minded question. Please see my full answer by following this link: https://shardsofsilence.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/the-state-of-syria/

2. Cornerofrain Q&A with vicbriggs:

Is there anyone you can tell anything to without fear of rejection?

Yes. My brother. He is an incredible human being. His love is unconditional. I can do no wrong as far as he is concerned and this means that I can trust him with anything.

What do you think about most of the time?

Other people. People fascinate me. I am yet to find a more interesting subject, and believe me, I’ve tried.

How do you feel about yourself at this moment?

Like Thumbelina in flight on the wings of a summer breeze, holding on to the stem of a dandelion seed-head: frightened and exhilarated.

What is your favourite drink?

Mead. It makes me feel like I’m in a magical place.

What website(s) do you visit daily?

I don’t have a daily website I visit, unless you count WordPress for the last thirty days. I do a lot of research so what I use daily are search engines.

Is it hard for you to concentrate with all of the information available today?

What an interesting question! I suppose yes. It’s tough to sift through the information and pick what is important to you, because everything is important and nothing is.

Do you have a good sense of humour?

I think I have one, but whether it’s a good one… Can of worms a-going fishing 🙂

What does it take to make you care about someone?

Be yourself. Can’t care about someone faking it. Maybe when I was younger people could fool me, but I’ve developed a nose for it over the years. Be yourself and care about others, and I will care about you.

Do you sing when you drive or in the shower?

YES!

How close is love to insanity in your opinion?

Love this question. Love is madness, because none of us love in the same way. There is no way to control and conform your emotions to what is expected of you. Hollywood has attempted to set the expectations and give us all a template on feelings and behaviour when in love. Failed project I should think. When it hits you, it’s like nothing else before or after. If you’re lucky enough, it stays with you for the rest of your life. It makes you a little crazier, but a little happier too.

3. Alienoratj Q&A with vicbriggs:

What was your first memory?

I am not yet two. It is winter I think, a gloomy day in the countryside, but I am happy. I have a new red coat with white twirls hemmed into its edges. I run around in the mud. Careful not to fall and dirty my white wooly tights, but not so careful that I do not enjoy it. Mother comes to me in a hurry. She lifts me into her arms, tucking me safely away from the dirt of the road. My aunt calls from the other side of the fence. She says something pretty and loving. I think her beautiful. It makes me glad.

What is your favourite colour?

Sunset-orange.

What kind of music do you like best?

I have very eclectic tastes. Love all good music. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Jazz and Indie.

What musical instrument/s do you play?

The piano, although not as well as I’d like. I used to play the violin when I was very young, but gave it up before reaching any degree of proficiency.

What is your all time favourite film?

Too tough! It goes in circles, so I’ll have to give a few of the ones I keep returning to: Pulp Fiction. Fight Club. Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy. Stardust. Atonement. I’m sure there’s an obvious one that doesn’t spring to mind right now, but I think those five have withstood the test of time (more of it for some).

Who is your favourite fairy tale character?

The Wolf in Red Riding Hood: a very misunderstood creature. We only hear Red’s side of the story. Who knows what abuse Wolf might’ve suffered over the years at the hands of Grandmother to bring him to such an extreme reaction? Also, his actions are always judged from a non-wolfish point of view. Another world’s norms and values are imposed upon him. He never gets the chance to explain his position. He is robbed of a voice and then murdered. We are none the wiser at the end.

Who do you love most in the world?

My husband and my brother; my family and friends; although everyone that crosses my path gets their own nook in my heart.

Read or watch television?

Read.

What is the very best thing about you?

A resilient trust in others.

What made you become a blogger?

The need to be more honest about things that have been painful, the desire to share, the hope that I can help others with their hurdles even if only by adding a smile to their day.

Now! For my nominations

So tough finding bloggers with under 200 followers. Very encouraging, as it shows how much support new writers get. I found you. I read you. I enjoy what you do and want to get the word out there. So… My nominations, in no particular order, are:

  1. EightLeggedGemini, but to me forever TwinCentaur http://wordpress.com/#!/read/blog/id/45412027/
  2. Blessed/Depressed: http://sixsidedtruth.wordpress.com/
  3. Randomly Speaking Unorthodoxly: http://fixatedann.wordpress.com/
  4. Amelie Lockhart: http://amelielockhart.wordpress.com/
  5. My Travels with Depression: http://mytravelswithdepression.wordpress.com/
  6. Written Obsessions: http://writtenobsession.wordpress.com/
  7. Joserizzal: http://joserizzal.wordpress.com/
  8. Prodigious Leaps: http://allisonmargaret.wordpress.com/
  9. Alienorajt: http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/
  10. Cornerofrain : http://cornerofrain.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/1338/

My questions for you:

  1. How do you dream? (Colour or black and white? Sound? Smell? Touch? Taste? What senses do you use or have available to you in your dreams?)
  2. What were you like as a child?
  3. What is your favourite memory of a loved one?
  4. What, if anything, would you have done differently if you could go back in time?
  5. Do you remember your first kiss?
  6. What do you see as the purpose of life?
  7. What matters the most to you now?
  8. How do you feel about owls?
  9. When did you last walk barefoot through the grass?
  10. Where is the place you go to when you want to recharge?

A big thank you to all

from a very happy blogger on her one month blogniversary 🙂

It’s good to be here with you x

Project O

Project O

Here’s a preview of my contribution to this project.

You will be able to see it on the Project O Director’s blog at some point in the near future. Follow the link for the template if you would like to contribute.

Question 1: Please provide a window into who you are, some background information in a not too overwhelming profile here.

I am a writer. A thinker. And a lover of wisdom (will say philosopher when I have the certificate to prove it. They put a lot of stock by paper where I come from).

I was born in the USSR – got the certificate to prove that one. Basarabia? It sounds a little like Bass-Arabia, although I can assure you, it’s no Middle Eastern palm-treed oasis or lagoon crawling with giant bass.

I left when I was fifteen. I got into Hogwarts: What? Hogwarts? I’m a wizard? Wow!  Ok, nearly: a scholarship got me into a boarding school in Romania. It was magic though, so Harry can swish the proverbial.

I’m British through and through now. Drink milk in my tea. Comment on the cleanliness or otherwise of public lavatories. Am obsessed with discussing the weather almost as much as Benedict Cumberbatch (I’m not. Honest. See Pants on Fire post!).

 

Question 2: If you haven’t already done so please provide your country of origin, whether you are male or female, an age would be nice, and where you currently live if that differs from the country of origin.

I live in one of the Home Counties, a short train journey out of London.  It is picture postcard English countryside: steeds galloping along country lanes, fields of dandelions and rapeseed (they should really rename that!), cricket on Sundays on the village green, mansion house chockfull of aristos complete with deer-roaming estate grounds in my back garden (or as good as).

We used to be red. We a blue now, after the last election (switched from Labour to Conservative that is), although I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t our village that made the change. This one is so blue, people don’t bother with ink. Just slash a wrist open and dab in. Because, of course, we still use quills over here.

 

Question 3: Recount the first time you remember having a differing opinion from someone significantly older than you. Do you remember what the topic was about? Did you voice your opinion or hold it to yourself?

When I was a child, I noticed something that unsettled me in the relationship between my father’s parents. He would tell her to shut up in public, suggesting that what she had to say was stupid. I do not recall any occasion when she said anything to deserve it, even if she was no Plato. What was even worse: she submitted. Every time.

I could not correct him. I’d been brought up to respect my elders. But, I knew from that moment on that I would not allow him, or any other man for that matter, to ever dare tell me to shut up. Well: can’t stop anyone saying it, but I’ve got twenty-five solid years of near-continuous education under my belt, which primarily focused on honing my argumentative skills. (Thank you, grandpa)

My friends always comment on how sweet I am to everyone, too sweet. Well. Manners cost nothing, and I’m sure everyone has sufficient irritants in their everyday life without me adding to them.  But! if you tell anyone to shut up: I’m on you like Dumbledore on You-know-Who. Yeah! I said it. Watch out Tom Riddles of the world. (Thought you’d enjoy a little thematic continuity here :))

 

Question 4: What levels of respect were practiced around you when you were a child?

Alright there, comrades? High levels of respect certainly. We were all equals. Some more equal than others, but equal nonetheless. Everyone had the Name-Patronymic or Name-Surname combos added to that.

Comrades turned to the equivalent of Ma’am and Sir post-revolution and USSR breakdown. Incidentally, in my mother-tongue their meaning is closer to Master and Mistress, so that Wild-East-Capitalism and Schizoid-Aliberal-Democracy came with a convenient hierarchy-minded vernacular to fill in the void left by the Soviet corpse. Although sadly, nothing could suppress the stink of its decomposition.

Politeness of address has been something that I have not been able to shake off. But, then again, I don’t think I want to. One does like to be civil, and to make oneself gracious in company.

 

Question 5: How travelled are you and to what degree do you keep up with international news?

I’m a gluttonous traveller.  I don’t think I’ll ever have time or money enough to do as much of it as I’d like to.

I took a gap year in South America, my first experience of non-European culture. Although at that point my experience of European culture was itself very limited. Romania is as good as my country, the differences culture-wise are few and far between. And the UK is not Europe. I know what you’ll say: ‘course it’s Europe – check the map. Technically it is, but it has struggled with its European identity since time immemorial. In a ‘who’s more European’ competition, Argentina would nudge ahead.

I fell in love with Latin America, yet simultaneously my heart went blue and gold-starred. It was the first time that, when asked where I’m from, I’d answer directly, no second thoughts: Europe.

Before the end of my third decade on this Earth, I’ve had a chance to explore twenty-one of Europe’s many states; I would say cultures, but within each state identities are so fragmented, that you’d have to at least double that number (re culture, ethnicity, and language).

I loved the US too, both East and West coast (no experience of mid-America as yet, although Hawaii was lovely – great scuba). Loved the chirpy attitude and the confidence, even if I can’t take the portions: How much can you people eat?

Japan was by far the strangest experience: A moon landing for me. It was a surprise stopover on the way to New Zealand (courtesy of my thoughtful husband – I’d taken up beginner Japanese – here was a chance for me to practice).

I am a citizen of the world.

 

Question 6: If you could share an opinion on a single international incident or topic that you either feel strongly about or that might not be known to the rest of the world what would it be? You have our attention.

It is very tough to pick just one, but I will attempt it. I hope that if you disagree with me to start with, you’ll at least take some time to think it over before rebuffing.

If you are a democrat (i.e. a believer in the norms and values of democracy) then you are a feminist.

How could anyone possibly justify their democratic credentials whilst simultaneously treating 51% of the population as second class citizens?!

So, I will repeat myself ad nauseam if need be:

If you are a democrat, you are a feminist.

Don’t be scared by the label. You don’t have to be a Feminist to be a feminist. In the same way in which you can hold conservative views, without being a Conservative, or behave liberally, without claiming to be a Liberal.

So. Put a full stop to misogyny. Get the t-shirt. Show some respect to your mothers, sisters, daughters and yourselves.

 

Question 7: What does the right to an opinion mean to you? Is it essential to freedom to have this right? How far would you go to protect that ability?

Opinionated Man: “I value the right to opinion as one of the most important forms of self expression that we have a born right to.”

Yes. It is an important form of self-expression, but further than that… I’m afraid I disagree.

We have no born rights to anything.

“All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as self-evident.”  A.S. This is the case for rights too.

Whatever rights we have, are the result of years (sometimes hundreds of them) of real struggle and even bloodshed; advances for humanity gained through political action by countless movements: feminist and civil rights movements, to point the finger at a couple of the culprits.

Do not become complaisant. Be in no doubt about this: You have no born right.

What you have, has been painstakingly built for you, and there will be those who will try to demolish it. Not perhaps with a big loud bang, but in time, like water: patiently, slowly hollowing out your freedom, one drop at a time.

So prepare your mortar, and get ready to patch it back up. It’s a constant back and forth and there is only one way to deal with it:

“Constant Vigilance!”  

Question 8: Is it ever right for you to be allowed an opinion while someone else is denied that same right on the same topic?

I cherish my right to an opinion and that of others too. I’ve lived in a time and place when you couldn’t use your voice for fear of reprisal, so I know how much it means being able to speak your mind.

I keep an open mind about… pretty much everything.  There is a line however: I don’t tolerate sexism, racism or homophobia (SRH). Cross that line at your own peril.

Liberalism preaches tolerance. Yes. I’ll go with that. But I also reserve the right to stand up for the norms and values that I treasure most.

In a democracy, SRH is not acceptable. If you subscribe to any of the three, then you need to grow up and get over yourself. What makes you so damned better than anyone else?

Question 9: The last question, upon completing this template and hopefully contemplating the issue what does this project mean to you? How can Project O potentially enlighten or help the world?

I will add my hopes to those of Opinionated Man, that this project allows the world a voice. Can’t wait to read everyone else’s entries! I feel compelled to quote Garai here once again, but there’s been enough swearing for one day so…

Here I come instead: You have a voice too. Use it.

“men are always wicked, unless you give them no alternative, but to be good”

Machiavelli, the art of politics and the pursuit of virtue?

obama_machiavelli_salon

‘The Prince’ is one of the most controversial and somewhat enigmatic texts written in history. Machiavelli undertook a challenge that none of his predecessors and contemporaries dared to take and cut deep into conventional views on the nature of human beings, the nature of their governments and the relationships between the two. Although he follows to some degree into the footsteps of his contemporaries in making ‘the Prince’ a guide for action, he breaks the pattern and seizes attention through juxtaposing contraries, offering a secular theory of statecraft and revolutionising the meaning of justice and virtue.

 

Machiavelli’s contemporaries believed that in order to maintain a state, honour, glory and fame, a ruler had to follow the virtues of Christianity: “So one man is described as generous…open-handed…gentle…reliable…sympathetic…straightforward… easy-going… cheerful… religious” (1994:48).

According to Machiavelli however, this was not the case. He discusses what politics is rather than what it ought to be. In order to be successful in politics a prince had to be flexible in his approach. Flexibility is virtue for Machiavelli. Policies should be shaped by circumstances. Machiavelli believed in the power of changing conditions and strong personalities in shaping events, hence the lack of precise instructions for action. Princes should always adapt their styles of rule to the new realities.

Machiavellian virtue is about success. Machiavelli argues that as victors write history thus citizens will forgive and forget their ruler’s cruelty and less orthodox means, as long as they bring economic success and long-term happiness:

“In the behaviour of all men, and particularly of rulers… people judge by outcome. So if a ruler wins wars and holds onto power, the means he has employed will always be judged honourable, and everyone will praise them.” (1994:55)

The text has often been accused of carrying an ethics of political convenience, which sanctions murders and other forms of bloodshed in the name of stable government, meaning that the concepts of good and evil are void in Machiavelli’s politics. Ends excuse means: good is what works.

Yet in ‘The Prince’ Machiavelli clearly states that cruelty should not be abused and that the Prince should avoid the massacre of his own people, betraying friends, breaking his word or acting without mercy or religion: “he must avoid above all being hated and despised” (1994:50). Politicians should adapt their actions to circumstances: always do right if they can, and only do wrong when necessary. A prince thus is to be virtuous, but never at the expense of his security or the security of his people. Once a Prince has disposed of his enemies and consolidated his rule, there is no reason why he should not follow Christian morality in his relationship with his subjects; it is on the external arena that a Prince should never give up his flexibility of action:

“One contemporary ruler… is always preaching peace and good faith, and he has not a shred of respect for either; if he had respected either one or the other, he would have lost either his state or his reputation several times by now.” (1994:55)

To consolidate power externally states have to enslave other states, Machiavelli argues, but to consolidate internal power, rulers have to serve their subjects. In inter-state relations circumstances determine what qualities are good and which are bad. Rules in politics are guidelines, rather than laws to be followed exactly and they should not be followed unconditionally (if they bring an advantage).

On the other hand, in politics it is impossible to please everyone; therefore one should strive to not be hated, rather than to be loved by his people. Machiavelli recognised at this early stage the power political legitimacy has in the eyes of the population to be ruled and the importance of manufactured images to politics:

“The common man accepts external appearances and judges by the outcome; and when it comes down to it only masses count; for the elite are powerless if the masses have someone to provide them with leadership” (1994:55).

Thus Rulers should look for the support of their subjects, rather than that of the elites and should ensure that their image is a popular and dignified one, as in politics being seen to be something equates being that something. This is due to the fact that Princes and politicians are judged by their images and by the results of their actions only.

Machiavelli does not have a high opinion of human beings: “men are always wicked, unless you give them no alternative, but to be good”. He also does not believe people change, hence the advice to learn from the past.

Although largely criticised, Machiavelli’s book has been very influential with modern thinkers: Hobbes expresses a similar distrust in humanity, emphasises the importance of stable government and similarly advocates that the lesser of two evils makes a good. Locke, on the other hand develops further Machiavelli’s idea of popular power in politics.

More importantly, with Machiavelli it becomes possible to speak of politics separate from religion. Two parallel spheres coexist without the possibility of reconciliation due to their conflicting systems of value: as Machiavelli argues that the political sphere is an amoral one.

Machiavelli discovers a new contingent knowledge – modernity begins with him, as he transforms the way human beings perceive themselves and the world around them.

Machiavelli’s book is certainly very successful; as a result today’s values are no longer derived directly from theology. He also offers a bold and original account of politics, which has not lost its controversy and, arguably, remains valid today, as politicians in the modern world are very much as Machiavelli described them; if only Princes have been replaced by States and their governments.