HOW A POOR, DESPERATE FAMILY MAN SAVED MY DAY

 

TODAY WAS MY FIRST ASSIGNMENT as a volunteer with “Die Tafeln“, a non-profit food bank, that bridges the gap between abundance and need. There are currently more than 930 “Tafeln” in Germany. All of them are nonprofit organizations. The Tafel, a non-governmental, civil society initiative, support more than 1.5 million people in need of food throughout the country – nearly one-third of them are children and youth. Germany has a higher poverty rate than the US and homelessness have risen 150 percent since 2014.

AS I ENTER THE ROOM, I see a black African crouching in a corner, kindness, and fear in his eyes as he greets me by gently lowering his head. A refugee from Sudan, as I learn later, just arrived in Germany. I forget him, start my activity until I hear his voice, loud and aggressive. He was denied access to this location, he had to go somewhere else, not this one. He speaks no German, other refugees from Syria translate the instructions of the officials for him into Arabic. In his face a mixture of desperation, incomprehension, aggressiveness, and anger. At some point I do not see him anymore, feel helpless, it’s my first assignment, I have no influence yet. The distribution of food is coming to an end. Then I see him again, as the last in the line of the waiting. I do not know how he managed to convince the officials, at least he is here now. His face is now peaceful, he is calm.

WE HARDLY HAVE ANYTHING TO DISTRIBUTE. All valuable food has already been handed out. There remain three unappealing apples and lots of bread. Baked goods are always in abundance, but have relatively few nutrients. Today, I am at the table of baked goods. Then he stands in front of me. On his food card is “11 people”. This is very much! On average, there are 3 to 5, maximum 7 people. Suddenly I understand the fear, the anger, the aggressiveness. And his insistence. He has to organize food for 11 people. He must not come back empty-handed. 10 people count on him!

NOW I WAS THE LAST OF US who could give him something and I had only baked goods, no better food. Baked goods abound. I presented him all the different sorts of bread in a row. He could choose, he decided, like an affluent customer in a shop. I felt blessed to give him everything he wanted. He got all the raisin buns and chocolate buns that I could find. For the children. His face now was that of a happy man who was richly gifted. I think it was less the bread but the chocolate buns for the kids. He left the location with bulging plastic bags and peace of mind. I do not know which of the two of us was happier. The one who took, or the one who could give.

Happiness and unhappiness, peace and rage, can be very close together, just a bread or a chocolate bun apart.

—-

Addendum: Hunger, poverty are on a steep decline on a global scale. That is great, but there is still a lot to be done.

 

A DIFFERENT TALE ABOUT GOOD AND EVIL

 

NOT SO LONG AGO, in the not so far away land, already known from the Different Tale of Two Brothers, an evil king seduced the people who became hostile to their neighbors, enslaved them, stole their properties and killed millions of them gruesomely. One of the evil king’s lieutenants, who once was a decent, unremarkable man, dehumanized himself, excelled in murdering civilians in the cruelest manner which made him infamous as ‘The Butcher’. Another lieutenant, once a diligent engineer, excelled in organizing the wars for the evil king, confiscating, stealing the riches of other peoples, forcing them to work for the war machine, due to the medieval saying ‘The War Which Feeds The War’ and he was called “The Organizer”.

WHEN THE FORCES OF LIGHT finally stood up and conquered the evil empire in an unprecedented epic, bloody war, both lieutenants were put on trial for their crimes, together with the other most malicious deputies of the evil king. During the trials, all defendants were united in a fierce denial about their felonies. Except for those two lieutenants. To the surprise of all, ‘The Butcher’ began to repent full heartedly and when he went to the gallows, he asked his victims and God for forgiveness. The “Organizer” admitted some guilt and became the only one of the evil king’s major lieutenants who was not sentenced to death but put into prison for many years. So justice was done, one way or the other, was it?

LET’S HAVE A LOOK at the real story which happened in and after Nazi Germany. Hans Frank, the ‘Butcher of Poland’ caused some of the most heinous excesses of inhumanity against the defenseless, suppressed citizens of Warsaw. He was indeed the exception, the only of the indicted war criminals in Nuremberg who repented full-heartedly and trustworthy, though he knew, his repentance wouldn’s spare his life. The “Organizer”, the evil king’s right-hand man Albert Speer, the alleged ‘good Nazi’, “Hitler’s Architect”, aka “The Architect of Death” wrote a book after his 20 years prison sentence, became famous and wealthy. But the fame and the wealth was not enough for him. After having been set free, he sold stolen Jewish arts which he had confiscated during the Nazi period. He became never indicted again and died in a London brothel. After all, he lied, he deceived, he didn’t change. His accomplice who helped him to sell the looted art was never put on trial in Germany, though his role as a concealer is known.

SO JUSTICE IS NOT WELL SERVED, righteousness is not rewarded? No happy end, instead of an outcome which puts right and wrong, good and evil upside down? Wait a minute, this story is not finished yet. Both war criminals lost the respect and love of their families. The butcher’s son published a fierce book about his father’s heinous life. Albert Speer’s son became a world-famous city planner who distanced himself from his father. His daughter was engaged in getting compensation for Russian slave workers in Nazi Germany and became a known figure in the German peace movement.

HOW THIS EPIC TALE about Good and Evil will end, if there is a righteous end, is to all of us, you and me. We decide every day anew on which side we are.The overall story about good and evil is defined finally by our own choices and decisions with which we write our own as well as the human history.

SEE ALSO “A DIFFERENT TALE OF TWO BROTHERS”

A DIFFERENT TALE OF TWO BROTHERS

 

NOT SO LONG AGO, IN A NEARBY LAND, there were two brothers, Hermann and Albert. It is said, as children they loved each other dearly. Hermann became a famous warrior, his younger brother Albert a decent merchant. Then in their country, an evil king arose who seduced the hearts and the minds of the people by promising riches and land for free. Riches, not earned by their own endeavors, but by suppressing foreign peoples, murdering the citizens, stealing their property. The evil king turned the country into a dark empire. Hermann became his ardent follower, Albert instead opposed the evil king viciously.

Hermann who climbed up the career ladder in the dark empire converted himself into an infamous mass murderer, responsible for the deaths of millions. Albert instead refused to bow to the evil and saved as many people as possible from the persecution of his brother and the evil king. Finally, Hermann, who became second in command in the dark empire, brought the war to many countries. Albert instead supported the resistance against the evil king and his brother and helped prisoners to flee.

Hermann turned himself into an inhumane monster. Albert turned himself into a savior of the weak and defenseless, a hero of humanity.

Our place in life is not predetermined by birth, race, family, sex, circumstances, intelligence, education, social status. We chose ourselves where we go, only we are responsible for our decisions.

As you might have thought, this tale is no fairy tale, it is a real-life story. Both brothers had the same surname, Goering. Hermann Goering, second in command in the Third Reich, who served the evil king Hitler, was put on trial at Nuremberg, sentenced to death and committed suicide. His younger brother Albert Goering suffered for the rest of his life from the dark shadow of his infamous brother and lived a decent life. In Germany, he was never honored for his outstanding demeanor until today. It is reported, that Hermann, the evil brother, saved Albert, the good brother, several times from the Gestapo due to his paramount influence.

Why is this tale told on LinkedIn? Both brothers were successful political and economic leaders. But only one of them contributed to the success of a humane civilization, to humanity. Success as such is not enough, it is worthy only with a positive aim.

Do We Have a Right to Mental Privacy and Cognitive Liberty? Consequences for customers and developers of tech products.

In his impressive article “Do We Have a Right to Mental Privacy and Cognitive Liberty?” (Scientific American, 2017) the Swiss scientist Marcello Ienca describes the challenges which privacy faces in the light of new technologies which include interference in neurological processes, our brain.
All new technologies ignite fears. As scientists warned with the introduction of the railway, velocity above 30 km/h would be deadly for humans, they warn today light speed traveling would be fatal. Despite all technology optimism, skeptics help to recognize flaws in time, detect dangers before they become life threatening.

New technology to intrude into privacy
Ienca describes the moral and ethical risks of new technologies which interfere in deepest corners of privacy. The warrant “the thoughts are free, no-one can detect them” which was taken for secure, is devalued. He cites various new methods and devices which interfere in the “inner privacy” without the knowledge and consent of the affected person. Ienca stresses on uses for the military, usage in courts, predatory marketing studies: “With the growing availability of Internet-connected consumer-grade brain-computer interfaces, more and more individuals are becoming users of neurodevices.”

Ienca refers to possible misuse of neurological devices for “brainjacking”. Subsequently he demands a “reconceptualization of the right to mental integrity.” which allegedly is met by Article 3 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights “as a right to mental health [which] should not only protect from mental illness but also from illicit and harmful manipulations of people’s neural activity through the misuse of neurotechnology.”.

The political dead-end-street
To protect the individuals from losing their “right to psychological continuity [which] might preserve people’s personal identity and the continuity of their mental life from unconsented external alteration by third parties” he cites an initiative of the European Parliament for a global ban of research “which seeks to apply knowledge of the chemical, electrical, (…) or other functioning of the human brain to the development of weapons which might enable any form of manipulation of human beings.”

Curiosity trumps morals
To shield individuals, humanity from the misuse of technology by banning research was never a good idea in human history. It is was never possible to ban humans from following their curiosity if for the good or the evil. Those who want to stop research to protect us from the evil, inhibit unwillingly the research for the good as well.

The popular game when children keep their hands in front of their eyes and rejoice excitedly: “You can’t see me” does not work in the world of adults. The more promising tangible way is to address the alleged dangers as early as possible, fight misuses relentlessly, following the old game of cops and robbers.

Enhanced privacy, morality has a price
For the technology world, it means, to develop appropriate products which meet the demand of the customers. If the latter want products which respect their privacy, the tech world should offer them. Ads relying on business models derive from the early period of the Internet when customers were not willing to pay subscription fees. As the internet evolves, business models evolve too and those customers who emphasize on enhanced privacy as part of their lifestyle and morality will be willing to pay a premium.