I kneel Conjuring ancient thinkers To ask a simple question: is death forever?
People who played their parts, Figures of finest wisdom, Begin seating themselves on the floor opposing to me.
The sound of a suspicious silence Fills the room, The consciousness of being both, The living and the phantoms of this world, Sends joint, mysterious and significant, Explanations of the meaning of life.
The room is bright, Serviceable candles are steady, They’re lit by poets….
I can’t pretend not to feel what I feel, My wings that grew between storms Spread wide to carry me once more Towards another day, towards another night.
Hello everyone! Remember I have told you I am writing a novel, about the life of my father and my experience as a child, living in communist Romania? I am in contact with a few publishers, but the novel is not in print yet. So, I decided to treat you with an excerpt……
John is my father and here is a short excerpt in which he recalls some of his young years….
John remembered the time during World War II. War meant little to children, and most of them didn’t even know or understand what was happening. As a small child, John did the same as the other kids around him. He continued to play hide and seek, hopscotch and all kinds of childhood games. He did not know who the Nazis, the Russians and all the others were. For him these names were faceless. For him, war was when there was no daddy.
But some memories sneak in and they can never be erased. And so were his memories of the Russian invasion and of what came afterwards. At that time Romania was under Nazi occupation and Hitler’s army was pillaging the country of its resources. The Nazis took control of oil wheels and they were helping themselves to the country’s food crops, causing food shortages for native Romanians. Then the Russian army invaded. The Russian soldiers were looting and burning homes, they were killing the men and raping the women.
The day when they arrived in their village his father’s brother was at their house. One of his legs was permanently injured in a hunting trip and that is why he was not on the front like his dad. He jumped off the back fence of the house with a gun, trying to organize other villagers against the invaders. Left on their own, John’s mom took him and his brother down in the cellar, where they had tens of wooden barrels. Some barrels were full of wine and others with tuica, a Romanian traditional drink made out of plums. There were some empty barrels too. They hid in one until the Red Army soldiers were gone. He remembered clutching on his beloved stuffed bunny. He also remembered the screams and the thunderstorm of machine guns outside. When they came out, John saw their dog crying. He was sitting next to the corpse of his father’s brother. The dog had an old man’s eyes.
But what John recalled the most was the time afterwards.
His father’s family was a remnant of the old nobility that once owned most of the land in the Kingdom of Romania. They still owned a lot of it, in fact in the present day, the village was seating on part of their land. Their household was like a small community, and everybody working there felt like extended family. There were few people working in the stables, others helped raise their farm animals, and others worked in the house. But WWII brought a lot of changes. Most of these workers were men, got drafted and they were gone. The house felt empty. John was grateful that the cook, a chubby woman that was giving him cookies in secret, did not leave. Her enthusiasm when making dough was utterly genuine and John had a lot of fun squandering flour and pretending to help. He also liked the carriage driver, an older man who during the war became some sort of domestic worker that helped with everything. These two people, his mom and brother, made him feel safe while the war was raging.
When the war was over, his father came back. John saw him from far away, walking on the village’s road in his military uniform. He screamed “Mom! Dad is coming!” and then he ran to him and jumped into his arms. His dad was well, not injured on the outside but after a while, John felt that something was wrong. He did not play with him and his brother anymore and he didn’t hug them like he used to. Instead, he stayed closed in his study room. When John would see the door open, he would go inside to find him absorbed, with dark circles under his eyes, writing on scraps of paper. John felt like someone hijacked his dad and put instead an odd soul. Then, from being completely reclusive, his dad started having meetings with his friends behind closed doors. John would still very rarely see him, and when he would come out, it was not as his dad was present. His mind was always preoccupied with something else.”
For some time, I have been thinking about some fundamental questions, such as the one of how did our societies became so polarized? Why are people so polarized when it comes to race, religion, why are people so polarized in general? I know that there are many reasons why, but I have recently come across a story that reveals disturbing facts.
I was listening to a New York Times podcast, that talked about the radicalization of a young man through YouTube videos. This was an aimless young man, in his 20s, who had a computer and spent a lot of time on YouTube. He became attracted by a far-right community, because he felt a sense of belonging. Besides the podcast, there is also an article in NYTimes about it. Here is the link for it if you want to read more about his story:
What struck me in this story was the evidence provided by a former YouTube employee, a French PhD, that explained how YouTube feeds you what to watch next….and next…and next. YouTube has an algorithm that controls what you can choose to watch next and based on your preferences (your history of watched videos) would suggest the same kind of videos. They say that this algorithm is responsible for 70% of the time spent online.
Now, not only YouTube, but many other platforms offer access to conspiracy theorists, extremists and all kinds of misinformation. Although YouTube and other platforms are outwardly liberal, they are still a place where all kinds of people that are arguing whatever they may, have reached large audiences.
What if you fall into one of those rabbit holes? I think it is an efficient method of brainwashing.
For YouTube and media alike, their business measures in time watched and in ratings. They would give you the same kind of material, because they assume that you like it and that you would keep roped for long by giving you information on the same subject, from the same kind of sources. For them, it’s all business. The more you watch, the more time you spend on their platforms, the more money they make. They’re not interested in providing a user with alternative narratives, with alternative points of view. For them, is not about the quality of information. It is all business.
But is it all business for people? No. Not so much. For us, real human beings, it’s our lives. We possess an incredible neuronal plasticity that allows us to be shaped by our experiences.
There are a lot of people out there, especially during this pandemic, who do not have wide social contacts and spend their time navigating the internet. If you involuntarily hammer your brain with the same, the same, you might not even realize that you are being misinformed, or that you start believing in who know what conspiracy theories.
I think the best we can do is at least be mindful of this possibility. Be more aware and judge through your own lens whatever information we are fed. I think it is important to stop taking the information we are fed at face value.
And, on another note, I have previously written a small article about how media controls the narratives. This is not new, in fact, media has been called the “fourth estate” because of its wide influence and its weight in steering one way or another the public affairs. Remember the Vietnam War and the photos of casualties and soldiers wounded? Did we see the same thing during the Iraq war and Persian Gulf conflict in the 90s and 2000s? No. We didn’t. Why? I’ll let you think for yourself and answer that question…..
The media controls what we see and hear. The media decides what we should hear and see. A lot of things that should be said have been effectively silenced.
I personally am trying hard not to be dumbed down by corporate biased news. It is hard. But I do seek information on things that are important to me and that are not talked in the media the way they should be because of low ratings ( i.e. climate crisis, community issues). I do seek alternative views on everything that I read and I do not believe everything is out there.
Hello everyone, Few people, including myself, have started at our university a reading group about the history of slavery in general and in the USA in particular. I am posting here a brief slide show, if you would like to learn a bit about what we know, according to the historical records, about the beginnings of slavery here in the USA. I think that we need to excavate deep into the history to understand more what is happening today. Not born and raised here, I was oblivious to race, religion and all kinds of differences. I still am. I do not like when people are called names or treated differently based on their origins and their other characteristics. We are all people and we all have souls. Period. For what is worth, we could all have been born in different bodies.
I have written this poem for Visual Verse Anthology of Art and Words, it is published on page 24, you can read their current issue if you click here: Visual Verse Anthology of Art and Words. The poem is based on the picture above and represents what I saw when I looked at it.
The antithesis of obliviousness By Andrada Costoiu
Peeking through the gates of time and space, I seek escape from the place I am stuck. I do not belong to this sentimental ecosystem of hollow chests, With people that smile to convince their bodies that are happy.
In the place where no one cares, I water the tree of love, Pluck its leaves and send them away To the ones who play the same game. We connect, If there is a wind, there is a way.
They say that romantics make the most unreliable spies, But this time I made it. The whole in the fence is the path, Not slow, but fast, I bid goodbye to the place that sings everyday happy birthday to the death of souls.
I feel like a citizen of Hades blinded by the sun. I stumble, The heart is a small muscle with a tremendous strength, It got me here, across the fence, back to the place where it all started.
I am an unbound soul smitten with the eternal light, I sync with the others, across the flying leaves, Maybe one day we’ll break the fences of all mundane places, And save the ones that shrug and fade into the dark.
Above the foxhole everything is fire Clouds are rolling, Stained by the rage of the man made world. His fingers are clenched on the wire, That sends a screaming order to move forward To all those destined to fill the infantrymen’ boots.
Steel helmet in the rain, He joins the game of hide and seek with bullets, And hopes to be among the winners, As there is no replay, The penalty of losing could take your soul away.
His team now takes the village, He stops behind a wall, then points his gun, The end and the tomorrow both dwelling by his finger, And what he’ll choose will be the faith of one.
Astounding insight into the human soul, Immersed in holiness and sin, The battle is about primal survival, And thus the man in front of him will lose, and he will win.