Athens Aphorisms


I wonder why we broke down the Berlin Wall proclaiming that now we were all free and equal – just to use all the bricks to build up a new wall around the rich world, this time to separate the poor from the rich?


I wonder how we could convict the leaders of East Germany as criminals for their orders to shoot and kill refugees who came too close to the Berlin Wall, yet we cynically take lethal measures to protect our borders. We allow mines along the Greek-Turkish border to maim and kill refugees, and we set up scanners along the European coastline, compelling boat people to resort to even smaller boats causing thousands to drown.


I wonder how we can flaunt high-flown ideas about abortion and inviolability of life, yet allow 30,000 children to die every day due to miserable life conditions.


I wonder how the flower children from ’68 who rose in rebellion against their parents’ materialism have ended up with an unprecedented consumerism here on Earth.


I wonder why we invest so many resources educating environmentalists, yet when they tell us to change our lifestyle to prevent an ecological disaster, we refuse to listen.


I wonder how we can praise democracy as the only acceptable social order, yet hold new democracies accountable for loans that we lent to the previous dictators through the World Bank.


I wonder how we in the rich world, through the WTO, can force the poor countries to open their markets, yet insist on our right to maintain the protection of our home markets.


I wonder how the EU and USA can exalt the ideal of free trade, yet at the same time smash the home markets of the poor countries by means of unfair export subsidies. For each Euro of development aid, we invest 5 Euro for subsidising our own production.


I wonder how we can teach our children to be social beings and to care for others, while our TV reality shows extol individuals displaying the opposite values.


I wonder how we in the West, who make up 20% of the world’s population and swallow up 80% of all resources, can see ourselves as the most righteous and humane people on Earth.



Jens Galschiot, April 2006