Delhi’s Bad Air …

Air pollution is reaching peaks in Delhi and the city – citizens and government – have finally started to fight it actively. One major cause for the bad air is of course traffic. In the first two weeks of January 2016 the Delhi government was running “odd-even” –  meaning one day all “odd-mumbered vehicles” were allowed to drive in the city, the next day all “even-numbers”. The campaign achieved a lot of media attention and a website for commute partners was launched by the government.

After the two weeks the environmental impact of the campaign was discussed manifold … political games on all sides. It would be insane to expect a significant reduce of air pollution after two weeks but what the intervention proofed is that the citizens are ready to take action and that the overall traffic situation was extremely relaxed. Everyone I have spoken to said this. There was no one complaining of not having been able to take the car. And most of Delhi’s citizens would do it again … So there is hope on the horizon.

What also became obvious during odd-even is that there aren’t enough measurement points in the city to serve all citizens equally. Now there is some kind of pressure to install more units and also to push the citizens somehow to action. This can only be done when they are somehow actively involved. Knowing about bad air is one thing – doing something actively against it is something different. The streets in Delhi are packed again and odd-even is almost history in this sense.

I’ve wirtten earlier on this blog that I am involved in an environment open data project which actually would close exactly this gap. While I was in Delhi the last 10 days I took the chance and spoke with Mrutyunjay Mishra (M2), co-founder of Juxt Smartmandate, a data analytics company based in Delhi and Hyderabad, and driving force behind the India Open Data Association – a non for profit company which believes in the open hardware and software movement and is promoting “open” as the secret for success to tackle the massive environmental issues in  Delhi and the rest of India is facing.

With M2 I’ve talked about the status of Open Data in India in general, about potential open data business models and what it takes to make a real impact – meaning not only collecting data but also creating communities and drive action. The first 15 minutes are about India in general, the last 20 minutes we tackle the other issues!

(Just click the play button and the audio file will start)

 

Just this morning I was reading an article featuring a French woman residing in Gurgaon (South od Delhi) who has started going around town, taking photo portraits of common Delhiites, making them pose with masks and X-ray films of a pair of lungs. As a matter of fact the air pollution is heavily affecting people’s health. The numbers of patients with breathing problems and many other symptons of pollution are skyrocketing!

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Here is the interview in an abbreviated form:


Ulrike Reinhard: You’ve started this initiative India Open Data Association (IODA). What is it all about ?

Mrutyunjay Mishra, IODA (MM): Our cycle is so to speak Data.Knowledge.Action. We collect data. We make it publicly available in an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand way and – knowing what the data is all about – we trigger action to solve problems which are of public interest. Let me give you one example. Our environment project. We started it last year at Kumbha Mela. Back then we’ve tested our open hardware machines for collecting various environment data such as dust, …. . The results of this field test helped us to fine-tune our machines, make them more accurate and sustainable and we optimized our software – meaning sending the data to the server and make it available. The new prototypes were ready for the odd-even experiment in Delhi in the first half of January 2016. There we’ve had the chance to compare at specific locations the measurements of our machines with those cost-intensive machines of the government. And it turned out we were absolutely competitive – not as precise as the high-end machines which cost more than one cruore INR, but within an tolerable variance. Government officials told us this.

Our next step is to cover with at least 40 of our machines more locations in Delhi, send the data to our server and make it available on our website. We visualize the data so that it is easy to understand for the public and we provide it in cvs-format so that everyone who wants to play around with the data can use it. With more machines out there and with more location-based data coming in we can serve the public better and provide knowledge how good or bad the air in Delhi is. We assume once people know how horrible air quality at their own place is and how it affects their health – they will chance behavior. This is when our cycle Data.Knowledge.Action. is completed.

So the India Open Data Association functions as a platform …

MM: Yes, I’d like to call it a platform. Because its role is to connect ideators, makers, financiers and users. We’ll be able to very clearly show that Juxt SmartMandate, which is my existing business and one of the founders of IODA, led the role of the ideator in this environment project and also brought in some seed funding. We connected with makers in China, where we bought the open source hardware for the machines and we found makers in India who assembled the hardware and designed a handy box. A new start-up is selling these boxes out of Gujarat. Other makers were working on the software and developed a mobile app which users can download to receive real-time environment data of various locations. So this model is working. What we need to do now is to scale it. For this we need more money … but we believe we delivered a strong proof of concept.

… and IODA is setup as a membership model, a non–for–profit company. Why have you chosen this structure? Why would a for profit company join?

MM: The organizational structure allows us to have maximum 200 members – these can be individuals and these can be organizations who are really interested in the open data ecosystem in India. To become a member you pay an annual fee and the one-time joining fee which is very nominal – I think it’s 5000 INR one time and 10.000 INR annual. So it is affordable for many. And because the legal structure only allows 200 members we’ve created one additional layer called “associate members” which allows us to include more if needed. Members have one voting right. So the structure is a more democratic one. We’ll see how it evolves. Initially we are looking for academics who are working in this field. We are looking for organizations and open data enthusiasts who have been doing groundbreaking work. We are looking for mentors, people who can guide us in this whole initiative. So there is a set of initial 15-20 members coming in. Hopefully also some financiers who provide a small fund to initiate projects. That is the answers to the first part of your question.

The second part – why would a for profit company join? We truly believe in the power of networks and in the power of many. The problems which we are planning to address and hopefully solve – as I said earlier – are problems which are relevant for the public. For all us. These are BIG problems like air pollution, waste, network-coverage – problems which can’t be solved by a single company, a single maker or even a single government. They can only be solved when we collaborate and co-create in a transparent manner – the ideaters, makers, users and financiers. And this is why we’ve chosen exactly this structure – it’s for us the best existing legal structure to achieve all this. That’s our basis. So now suppose you are the ideator of an open data project – and “open” is the premise – and you run your own private for profit company. Just like my company Juxt SmartMandate does in the open environment project. You define the skill set needed to make this project possible. The goal is that within IODA you’ll find the makers who are interested in your idea, you’ll find scientist who evaluate your data and so on. If the idea is good enough it will be translated into a product and/or service and we’ll find funding – meaning all the people will get paid. Everyone is working for profit. So the people who are making this project happen are all for profit. But the frame set in which all of this happening is a non-for-profit entity – it provides the basic management and the platform. So it’s a fairly good structure that way.

Where are the potential revenue streams for a company?

MM: For us at Juxt SmartMandate we see various revenue streams. Our core business is data analytics – so for us it’s business to analyze big data streams, to reduce complex data and translate the emerging patterns into easy to understand graphics and visualizations (meaning not losing any information while reducing the complexity), we structure data and provide downloadable data-packages and we might even develop desktop or mobile applications for the end-user. The person who developed the environment monitoring kit for our first project started meanwhile his own business and sells these boxes. So there are plenty of revenue streams … I am sure.

You were also saying that everyone can use the data – meaning also people/organizations who are not member of IODA?

MM: Yes, that’s true. We’ll provide all the data we are collecting on our internet platform in cvs-format. Everyone can download the data packages and play around with it and explore and build. All the data collected in any of the IODA-projects will be published under the a Non Commercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license, which allows the data to be shared and adapted as long as the appropriate credit is given to the creator and all the changes made are clearly mentioned. Commercial usage remains with those who initiated, collaborated and funded the project.

What is the current status of IODA?

MM: Regarding IODA as an organization I can say, that it is registered under Indian law and ready to practice. The bank account is opened and we can now invite the first members to join. We’ve already spoken to a few organizations and people and we are happy to announce our first members soon. Our website with the basic information is ready for launch.

Juxt SmartMandate will bring in the environment project I was talking about earlier. The status is that 40 boxes including the software are ready to be rolled out all over Delhi. The project website is ready for launch and the mobile app can be downloaded. For a successful start it’s crucial to increase the number of users.

What other projects can you envision ?

MM: I can only speak for my own company. We are planning to bring in at least two more projects once the environment project is up and running. One is the crowdsourcing of network coverage problems and analyzing the main reasons why in India the network is so fragile in order to achieve a more stabled infrastructure. Another one is the mapping of crimes let say in the city of Chennai. The data is publicly available but it is provided in a way that it is basically of no use. We are planning to visualize it in a way that let’s say women can see on a map which areas in Chennai are known for which kind of crime at a certain time of a day. So they simply can avoid going there. This doesn’t mean that they can’t become victim in a crime – but it can certainly increase the chances NOT to become a victim. I am sure other people / companies have many more ideas … I am really curious to see IODA taking off.

Empathie. Experiment. Provokation.

Für den 5.ten Online Geburtstag von Oubey – Mindkiss-Projekt – durfte ich mal wieder Prof. Peter Kruse interviewen. Er war einer der ersten, der mit seinem Encounter diesem ungewöhnlichen Kunstprojekt einen grösseren Rahmen verschaffte. Ich war damals dabei als er das Bild, das Dagmar Woyde-Koehler ihm mitbrachte, sozusagen “auspackte” und auf sich wirken liess. Die erste Reaktion damals – er stellte es weg von dem ursprünglichen Platz unter einem Olivenbaum im Schuppen 2 (nextpractice Büro) und platzierte es direkt vor der Computerwand. “Da passt es besser hin”, meinte er.

2013-01-27_encounter_kruse
Prof. Peter Kruse, Schuppen 2, Encounter with Oubey, 2010

Mindkiss ist für mich ein aussergewöhnliches Projekt. Ich würde es nicht unbedingt als Kunstprojekt bezeichnen – es ist für mich vielmehr ein interaktives Experiment, das anders als man es gewöhnlich kennt, mit Kunst umgeht. Die Geschichte von Oubey in wenige Worte zu fassen ist schwer. Oubey ist bei einem tragischen Verkehrsunfall ums Leben gekommen und hat ein umfassendes Kunstwerk hinterlassen. Bis zu seinem Tode hatte er erst eine Ausstellung gemacht und hatte sich nach dieser dann ganz bewusst aus dem traditionellen Kunstbetrieb zurückgezogen. Er hat geschaffen, nicht mehr ausgestellt. Als er nach Jahren der Distanz wieder für eine Ausstellung bereit war, starb er. Dagmar Woyde-Koehler trägt seinem Wunsch, wieder in die Öffentlichkeit zu gehen und doch dem traditionellen Kunstbetrieb fern zu bleiben mit dem Mindkiss Projekt in höchstem Maße Rechnung. Sie hat einen lebendigen Interaktions- und Erlebnisraum für Oubeys Kunst geschaffen, in dem sie mit besonderen Formaten wie Encoutern und ungewöhnlichen Events wie Oubeys Online Geburtstag im ZKM seine Bilder zu echten Begegnungen mit seinen Betrachtern werden lässt. Frei von irgendwelchen auferlegten Zwängen und Interpretationen. Frei von dem Zwang verkaufen zu wollen.

Die Menschen, die in einer ersten Runde von Woyde-Koehler zu einem Encounter eingeladen wurden, sind alle ja man könnte sagen “artverwandt” mit Oubey. Sie stehen für die Themen, die ihn interessierten, und zeigen die Vielfalt von Oubeys Gedankenwelt auf. Und wie es scheint, “sprechen” die Bilder in ihren Begegnungen mit den betrachtenden Menschen. Peter Kruse machte diese Erfahrung vor 5 Jahren. Er wurde förmlich in das Bild hineingezogen, das er damals als unverschämt bezeichnete, und er war erstaunt, welche Tiefen das Bild aufwies. Es nahm ihn mit auf eine Erkundungstour, an deren Ende Kruse das Gefühl hatte, in Oubey einen Seelenverwandten zu haben, jemanden der einen sehr ähnlichen Blick auf ein Thema hat, jedoch dieses aus einem vollkommen anderen Blickwinkel betrachtet. Empathie.

Über die Jahre betrachtete Kruse das Projekt aus der Distanz. Manchmal war er bei einem Event zu Gast. Er sah wie sich Oubeys Kunstwerk weltweit und online einen Raum zum Experimentieren schaffte – ein Experiment, das anders als man es für gewöhnlich kennt, mit Kunst umgeht. Und er sah wie eine “Community” rund um Oubey und Mindkiss entstand. Menschen setzten sich mit Oubeys Bildern auseinander, trafen sich real und virtuell und tauschten sich aus – in einem vorgegebenen Rahmen, aber innerhalb dessen vollkommen frei. Eine Spielwiese. Ein Sandkasten. Eine Plattform. Lebendig. Erfrischend. Und vielleicht gerade deshalb provozierend.

Provokation. Das ist der wesentliche Punkt, den Kruse fünf Jahre später dem Mindkiss Projekt zuschreibt. Die Provokation mit Kunst anders als rein profit- und anlageorientiert umzugehen. Für ihn skizzieren die drei Layer des Mindkiss Projektes Empathie, Experiment und Provokation ein mögliches Modell, Kunst als eine bedeutende Kraft für das Entstehen von kulturellen Werten wiederzubeleben und nicht Kunst als Anlageobjekte in der Finanzwelt des Kapitalismus untergehen zu sehen. Mindkiss als Modellversuch für ein neues System “Kunstmarkt”. Ein System dritter Ordnung – wie Kruse sagt. Ein System, das NEU ist und nicht versucht, das Alte besser zu machen oder auf dem Alten neu aufzusetzen. Das findet Kruse spannend. Und er nimmt es zum Anlass, uns alle aufzufordern, ganz grundlegend über Fragen wie “In welcher Gesellschaft wollen wir leben?, “Müssen wir nicht den Begriff des Kapitals neu definieren?” “Was passiert mit einem System, wenn ihm das Feindbild abhanden kommt?” “Brauchen wir Räume, die frei von kommerziellen Marktmechanismen sind?” nachzudenken …

In dieser Hinsicht findet Kruse das Mindkiss Projekt sehr provokativ – es regt zum Nachdenken an und zeigt dabei einen neuen Weg bereits auf …

An interview version with English subtitles you can find here.  And here is the written English interview:

Decision by Experiment and its Implications for Leadership

Scott Cook co-founded Intuit Inc. in 1983 and now serves as the chairman of the Executive Committee. The idea of intuit came to him one day when his wife was complaining about paying the bills. With personal computers just coming out at the time, Scott thought there might be a market for basic software that would help people pay their bills. So he launched intuit, which today offers software and online products to help individuals and small companies manage their finances.

At INKtalks he had a conversation with Lakshmi Pratury, co-founder and curator of INK, about his way of leading a company. He explained that he has changed his way of leadership a few years ago by introducing decision making based upon experiment. In this interview he shows what this means in the daily life of a company and what kind of implications it has on leaders.

Design needs to provide more than just “function” …

… says Stefan Sagmeister, a New York based designer, born in Austria. I never met Stefan in person but I knew him from my conversation with Dagmar Woyde-Köhler (mindkiss) with whom I worked on our we & the arts magazine. Stefan designed Dagmar’s mindkiss book. So here we go at INKtalks 2013.

Stefan is co-host of INKtalks. He delivered an inspirational talk yesterday on how design can thrive happiness.

At the end of the day I’ve had the chance to interview him …

Peter Kabel in conversation with Deepak Goel

Peter Kabel, one of the first German Internet entrepreneurs and founder of Kabel New Media, in conversation with Deepak Goel, founder of drizzlin a social media agency in New Delhi, India. They speak about Internet penetration in India, business opportunities, man power and corruption;-)

I’ve met Deepak about a year ago in Mumbai and I really do like his idea how brands should use the web.

Zukunft von Führung: kompetent, kollektiv oder katastrophal?

Prof. Dr. Peter Kruse bezieht zu der Frage Stellung, was zeichnet in Zukunft gute Führung aus. Die wesentlichen Herausforderungen, die er für den Prozess von Führung identifiert sind: die steigende Vernetzungsdichte, die Dynamik und die schiere Masse an Information (Komplexitätsfalle), das kollektive Wissen als Weg der Falle zu entgehen, Push-Strategien durch Pull-Strategien zu ersetzen und lernen mit der “Kernschmelze” zu leben. Sein theoretisches Grundgerüst wird durch die ersten Zwischenergebnisse der Studie “Gute Führung” gestützt.

Chéma Gagouri on Tunisia

I’ve met Chéma during the Global Citizen Forum held by the British Council a few years ago. Her work aims to empower women in Tunisia to become entrepreneurs. She is convinced that only broad grassroot movements will drive change and somehow guarantee sustainability.

In our SKYPE conversation she gives us insights into

– Tunisia’s culture,
– Islam and democracy,
– what people want and don’t want in Tunisia,
– the transformattion process her country is currently experiencing and
– the disconnectedness of the government from the people.

It’s a pleasure talking with her.


Recorded via SKYPE.

Peter Scholl Latour on the Middle East

I grew up with his reportages, I read many of his books and I saw a few of his documentaries. I deeply respect Peter Scholl-Latour’s investigative journalism and the quality of his work. So I felt more than privileged to spent a couple of hours with him.

In the following interview we speak about the Middle East – particular about the Arab Spring and western interests and media. Here are some “highlights” of the interviews:

“There is no identifiable German position on Syria.”
“The German press and media is not free!”
We are now the allies of Al-Qaida! But nobody breathes a word about this!”
The Israelis are well-known for their cleverness and intelligence, but politically they’re not so terribly clever otherwise they wouldn’t have turned Iran into their bogeyman!”
The political class in America is mired in stupidity and ignorance!”
“We are witnessing an Islamic revival in Turkey!”

The interview is in German – an English slightly shorter text version will be available soon.
Parts of it will be published in the next issue of we-magazine on the Middle East.

And here´s the entire English version of the interview:

Stop this hypocrisy!
A conversation with Prof. Dr. Scholl-Latour about the Middle East.

we-magazine: How would you describe the German government’s current position on Syria?

Peter Scholl-Latour: It doesn’t have one! Either the Germans run after the Americans or they make a desperate attempt to do something different. As they did with Libya – and as we see that usually goes wrong. The only correct decision that’s been made was the decision not to take part in the Iraq war. On the other hand, it was a bad decision to be the only member of the European Union and the Atlantic Alliance not to give formal assent to the joint declaration of intent on Syria – when we didn’t need to send a single plane or soldier. It was sheer foolishness vis-à-vis our allies. Under no circumstances should we ever intervene in the internal affairs of Syria.

we-magazine: Use of poison gas in Syria has been squarely laid at the door of the Assad regime – at least by the western media and many politicians. Obama is always talking about “crossing the red line”. What do you think the consequences would be if the West intervened militarily in Syria?

Peter Scholl-Latour: This is a similar campaign of misinformation to the one that took place a few years ago with Iraq. At that time there was much talk of monstrous stockpiles of poison gas and missiles too. Tony Blair even went so far as to speak of the possible annihilation of Europe by Iraq. Absolute bullshit! And now they’re at it again and using the selfsame mechanisms. They realize that Assad is gaining ground and have to find a quick excuse to demark this so-called “red line” – which is a pretty stupid expression! – so they can send arms to the insurgents. Yet they’ve no idea into whose hands these weapons might fall!
The truly best fighting force on the side of the insurgents are not the deserters from the Syrian army – who are not as numerous as is generally believed – nor the Sunni village communities – who have come together in an alliance but aren’t all that effective in military terms. The real fighters, the ones who are also prepared to lay down their lives, are the guys from Jabhat al-Nusra, an extremist Islamist movement. And as even the Americans admit, they have joined forces with Al-Qaida in Mesopotamia! We are now the allies of Al-Qaida! But nobody breathes a word about this; the German press, you see, is not at all a free press!

we-magazine: Why isn’t the German press free? Why are so few people speaking up?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Paul Sethe, I don’t know if his name means anything today, but in post-war Germany he was a very great, very conservative journalist and one of the founders of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. And he once wrote that the freedom of the press in the western world is the freedom of 200 rich people to publish their opinions. In present-day Germany this figure is down to four or five. It’s the publisher who decides which line will be followed. The publisher appoints the editor-in-chief and the editor-in-chief makes sure that journalists toe the line and if somebody doesn’t toe the line, their services are no longer required.

we-magazine: An elegant form of censorship.

Peter Scholl-Latour: Exactly. Add to this the self-censorship in the minds of journalists who think that the editor-in-chief or publisher would be pleased to read this or that, and so slant their articles accordingly.

we-magazine: To return to Syria – what happened there in comparison to Tunisia and Egypt?

Peter Scholl-Latour: I first went to Syria in 1951. And believe me, all this talk about freedom is too absurd! Syria’s troubles started in Dara’a – which by the way, interestingly enough lies directly on the border to Jordan from where it can be directly influenced, including by the Saudis. Admittedly also by a number of rallies and demonstrations held with the best of intentions.

Obviously the Syrians too wanted more freedom. Only by then they had seen what had happened in Libya and what was happening in Egypt. So their enthusiasm was not exactly overwhelming. In fact it was strictly limited. But then concerted efforts were made to pump it up and inflate it, capped finally by that all-important move when Turkey threw open all its borders even – or should I say expressly for – arms shipments from Saudi Arabia and Qatar – which speaks volumes!

Syria can hardly be compared with Egypt and Tunisia. In Tunisia it was that incident when the street vendor set himself on fire and burned to death for whatever reasons we simply don’t know. Whether it was for political reasons or because he was unhappy in love, nobody knows. Nor do we. Only it had this astonishing follow-on effect. In Tunisia nobody expected an uprising. Tunisians are very peace-loving, gentle people who are also very heavily Europeanized. But it was there of all places that the ball started to roll and within a few weeks Ben Ali was deposed. Yet sadly to say even today we can see that the much-trumpeted democratization process hasn’t taken place even in Tunisia. Ennahda, the party that fanned the flames of the uprising, was certainly a very honorable party in its early days, yet in its confrontation with the extremist Islamist forces of the Al-Nor party which is financed by Saudi Arabia, we can have no idea of which further turning it will take.

we-magazine: So what makes fundamentalist Islam so strong in these countries?

Peter Scholl-Latour: One thing we should not forget: movements like Hamas in Palestine or earlier on the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt too were all originally charitable organizations which took care of the people, set up huge community kitchens, built schools and so on, and by so doing got the people on their side. None of this started with violence. But then came the moment when the government saw them as a danger and reacted aggressively. And then naturally enough the Islamic parties also resorted to arms. In any case, the readiness to resort to arms was already there. In Algeria this led to a dreadful civil war which lasted eight years and took a death toll of 250,000 people about which nobody in the West has talked. And all this happened in the wake of free elections! This is what I mean by the hypocrisy of the West Free elections had taken place. General Chadli Bendjedi was foolish enough to allow free elections. He (and the West with him) completely misjudged the fact that it was the Islamic Salvation Front which held the majority and was sitting in parliament, and so there was this hasty coup d’état. And the West said not a word – on the contrary the West was only too glad that the danger had been averted. While people in other places were much less indulgent in their view of what had happened.

we-magazine: How would you describe the current situation in Syria?

Peter Scholl-Latour: By and large it has turned into a confrontation between different confessions. Although it would be a mistake to believe that the Sunnis are standing resolutely on the side of the insurgents. The greater part of the army – which includes a great many Sunnis – has remained with Assad.
In Syria there is a considerable middle class, a bourgeoisie, and they have seen the rising chaos in Libya and the falling living standards in Egypt and what they have seen hasn’t made them exactly eager for unrest.
The conflict really has been brought into the country from the outside, and not for any kind of humanitarian reasons but with the intention of establishing a democracy. But the whole point of the exercise – and this is the central issue about which nobody speaks – was to prevent the establishment of an Iranian Shiite bridge stretching from the borders of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, right through to Hezbollah.
Ever since the battle for al-Qusay, a rebel stronghold and a strategically important city in the west of Syria, Assad has regained the corridor between Damascus and the Alawi regions on the coast where he has his main support, which now leaves him in a much stronger position. His campaign was supported by the Lebanese Hezbollah, who naturally had their own excellent reasons for intervening – namely that if the Alawis in Syria were eliminated and not just stripped of their possessions and offices but actually murdered, then this would leave Hezbollah extremely isolated in its corner. And then the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Sunnis of Lebanon, and Syria’s people, the Americans and Israelis – also notorious for their ability to misread a situation – all these different parties would have attempted to eradicate Hezbollah. This is the reason for Hezbollah’s intervention. Hezbollah is the best Arab army in the Middle East. In 2006 it succeeded in something that is also always passed over in silence, it succeeded in holding off the Israeli offensive for three long weeks and in forcing it to retreat.

We-magazine: Israel is weaker than ever before …

Peter Scholl-Latour: Yes, that is correct.
The Israelis are well-known for their cleverness and intelligence, but politically they’re not so terribly clever otherwise they wouldn’t have turned Iran into their bogeyman. Khomeini – I was one of the few people who knew him personally – didn’t “throw out the Jews”. Iran is the only Islamic country in which a minority of some 30,000 Jews still lives and who have synagogues and an MP in parliament. Obviously, this MP cannot be a Zionist.
It simply isn’t the case that Syria is Israel’s biggest enemy. Israel will really have to watch out when it gets the Al-Qaida bands of the Al-Nusra Front on its Golan border. For 40 years now, ever since the Jom-Kippur war, not a single shot has been fired on this border. Since this uprising broke out, though, there’ve been bouts of sporadic firing which are bound to intensify. It’s absolute bullshit for the West to believe that “my friends are automatically your enemies” equation. Just look at Afghanistan: the Americans believed that because the Mujahideen were the enemies of the Russians, the ungodly Shorawi, they were the friends of America. Total idiocy! As soon as the Russians quit Afghanistan, it was the Americans themselves who became the enemy.

we-magazine: Is this a lack of knowledge or sheer ignorance on the part of America and the West?

Peter Scholl-Latour: The Americans have the best oriental scholars in the world. But it also must be said that the political class in America is mired in stupidity and ignorance. Ignorance and hypocrisy are the main diseases andemic to the West.

we-magazine: What can the EU and Germany do?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Nothing. What should the Germans do? Everything that German politicians keep spouting is complete nonsense! At least from 2003 when they didn’t react to that lightening American strike in Afghanistan – which by the by was a textbook example of a good campaign. They should have pulled out immediately once it was over. The Germans knew it would all go wrong. They had the reports from the BND, the Foreign Intelligence Agency; they had the reports from the commanding officers. But Berlin simply refused to believe them. Now I won’t name the ministers. They don’t regard me with any kindly eye. But basically the only one of them with any clear vision – though he was also unlucky in other respects – was Guttenberg. Even Herr Jung believed that things would work out right in the end. What utter nonsense! You just have to look at the “Euro Hawk” affair to see how disastrously ministers are served by their secretaries of state and their apparatus of informants. Guttenberg gave one of the responsible secretaries of state the boot. He cleared the deck and he was perfectly right to do so.

we-magazine: What should the West do to gain a better profile in this transformation process towards democratic governance?

Peter Scholl-Latour: I am growing increasingly allergic to hearing the word democracy. It makes me cringe! “Human rights” is another term that’s been so blatantly misused that it’s lost its meaning. When I see the former French foreign minister Juppé appearing side by side with the Saudi foreign minister al-Faisal to caution Syrians to be good democrats in spite of everything – then honestly speaking I must say this is the giddy height of hypocrisy! The Saudis of all people!
Leading other countries to democracy is simply not our job. They should do it themselves; it’s none of our business. We should leave them alone. Any involvement can only turn out badly.

we-magazine: So what continues to motivate the West to believe that it should act like a missionary?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Well, in many aspects – as simplistic as this may sound – obviously it’s petrol.
But this isn’t the case in Syria. The intention there is simply to break the connecting Iran – Hezbollah bridge. And the Israelis are obsessed with putting Iran and all its allies back in their place. I really don’t see the reason for this. I myself have talked to Khomeini about Israel, and when I submitted my questions back then – which I put through his son Ahmed – one of them was what would you do with the Jews in Israel when you won’t recognize the state of Israel and even want to wipe it out? I was sitting by the government spokesman at that time, and Ahmed was in Bonn, and both of them started to laugh. I was startled because I didn’t think my question was any laughing matter. But Khomeini’s son explained to me that he’d never heard such an idiotic question in his whole life – as though the Arabs would ever be capable of winning a war with the Jews. That’s their way of thinking. But apparently nobody knows it.

we-magazine: Nobody knows it in the West …

Peter Scholl-Latour: Well, I have written about it!

we-magazine: So what’s your scenario for the arena of conflict around Israel. How far does it hold the potential to trigger a third world war?

Peter Scholl-Latour: No, there’s no danger of that. All the parties there are far too quarrelsome and divided for that to happen.
But there’s another thing that we Europeans have to get into our heads – European states are not fit for going to war! We still need America. Even when the Americans exasperate us and drive us to despair with the stupid things they do, we’re still very much dependent on them. When the British and French were waging their war of the air in Libya – which was a well conducted operation – they ran out of bombs after just three weeks. And even before they began, the Americans had to take out the Libyan air defense. They all had to fall back on the Americans. And this happens everywhere.

we-magazine: So the role of NATO can be equated with that of America?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Yes. Europe is now in a most undignified situation.

we-magazine: What can Europe do to get out of it?

Peter Scholl-Latour: First of all it needs to sell people the message that we need decent weapons. Only this is something that nobody’s saying – on the contrary, military budgets are being constantly slashed. The French have now mounted a superb military campaign in Mali which was a considerable source of satisfaction for me personally as I once served in the French army. But they’ve now got to see to it that they get out double-quick.

we-magazine: Will they get out?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Sure, they’ll get out, obviously they will. But who’s going to take their place? The Mali army is a bunch of total incompetents and all the African troops of the African Union – even when they’re UNO contingents – have failed miserably everywhere they’ve been. I’ve seen this myself in the Congo, in Sierra Leone… and the list goes on ….everywhere just abject failure.

we-magazine: To return for the moment to Tunisia and Egypt, what role did religion play in the overthrow?

Peter Scholl-Latour: At the beginning none whatsoever. It was an uprising of the upper middle class of intellectuals, of a very honorable and fairly extensive middle class section of the population in Tunisia. And the same applies to Cairo, Suez and Alexandria. But obviously the same does not apply exactly to the provincial towns and cities, and especially not to the villages where the mass of people followed a plain, relatively peaceful form of Islam which they got on very well with. And these are the very people who are faring much worse now than ever before. But the worst thing is that now the extremists are coming from Saudi Arabia, one of our closest allies, and fanning the flames of the discontent and manipulating it to their own ends and purposes. All Islamic extremists come from Saudi Arabia. Here in Germany too, our own Salafists are funded by Saudi Arabia. And we continue to supply them with Leopard tanks. It just shows the sheer extent of our hypocrisy.
And you must add to this the deteriorating security situation in the country. Many Egyptians now regret the passing of the Mubarak regime – that is the end result of our policies and the economic inaptitude of the countries. Criminal elements have grown very strong.

we-magazine: The same can be said about nearly all the countries …

Peter Scholl-Latour: Indeed. Libya is certainly one of the high points. The Algerians, the Algerian military, who are the real holders of power, had better watch out now that nothing happens on their patch, especially as president Bouteflika, who was relatively well-liked by the people, is now on his deathbed.

we-magazine: What’s the situation like in Jordan?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Jordan is an appendage of Saudi Arabia. Of course the Americans are there and the British have their old positions there, and the Israelis are Jordan’s protectors. But all that can change with the enormous influx of refugees. Because these refugees are not all dear boys and democratically inclined freedom fighters. There are also hardliners among them, and above all huge numbers of Palestinians who used to live in Syria. And they had quite a good life in Syria, much better than anywhere else.
All this represents a new potential for conflict in Jordan.
And it’s also very telling that the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Maschaal, who used to live in Syria is now living in Qatar. Qatar – that’s one of the West’s closest allies.

we-magazine: Qatar is playing a similar role to Saudi Arabia?

Peter Scholl-Latour: Yes, but with only 200,000 inhabitants. Basically this state is a sick joke but such sick jokes are tolerated by the West. It puts on Formula 1 racing and plays host to the FIFA World Cup. The way it squanders money is scandalous. And all because this Emir is sitting on rich reserves of natural gas and oil – which we need. This is why he can be so outrageously lavish. We’re living in a world that’s totally corrupt. He also tolerates that foreign workers in his country are treated like slaves and nobody says a word!

A different take on Syria

In the following videos Prem Shankar Jha, a well known journalist in India, tries to give you a different take on what is going on in Syria from what you you usually read in (Western) newspapers and see on TV. In his eyes the unrests and the destruction of the Assad regime in Syria were carefully planned by the US and its Western allies. And now – after realizing that they are de-stabilizing just another Arabic country and by doing so they are just putting even more pressure on Israel – it’s impossible for them to say: We did wrong!

I cut the entire video down in single pieces and tried to separate them by subjects.

No Arab Spring in Syria
What happened in Syria was different from Egypt and Tunisia – it had nothing to do with the so-called Arab Spring in northern Africa.

Why it was different in Syria …

How the unrests evolved and who encouraged them

Israel and Oil – The 2 major reasons for destroying Syria

The failure of journalism and the media
The lack of Western media staff on the ground and the role Al Jazeera played in the process.
The misuse of social media sources.

youtube
youtube’s role in the media circus – and how it was used by whom.

When the Americans and the British realized they were wrong
Inconvenient Facts – Not liked by Hillary Clinton

Assad’s Choices

Where will Syria go?

Khajuraho – One with Nature and Culture

Brijendra Singh is – among many other things – tour guide in Khajuraho. Everybody there calls him “mamaji”. He has a deep knowledge of Indian’s mythology and during his lectures/tours on the famous Khajuraho temples he easily links nature, culture and where it all comes from. He gives deep insights into India’s society.

When I first saw him I was blown away by the beauty of his look (eyes) and hands.
Really enjoyed the conversations we’ve had – (not only) Khajuraho needs many more of him!

During this interview we were sitting in his “bio”-garden – a beautiful spot in which every tree and vegetable and flower is treated naturally – no chemicals at all … except twice a day when airplanes fly 15m over his head to touch down at Khajuraho airport.

Mamaji introducing himself

Khajuraho – its culture and its nature

Happiness

Cast and class


Responsibility