High

You’re scared , and it’s normal. You’ve never had this stuff before. You don’t really know it is going to feel like.

At the beginning everything seems cool, in control – you’re a grown up after all. And then it hits you hard, right in your chest. You choke, you can’t properly breathe. Don’t panic,
it all normal – you’ve never inhaled this kind of smoke before. Your body is adapting, it knows what it’s doing.

Your heart beat intensifies, your pupils dilate and everything feels different around you. You feel vulnerable, and you get even more scared.Paranoia gets you and now you panic. That’s why it’s important who’s around you as well. Some, more experienced than you could help you get through this a lot faster. Others, newbies such as yourself might join your madness and grow it. If you’re completely alone, well, let’s say that then you’ll have to take one of the hardest emotional mental test you’ve ever taken. But don’t worry, you’ll pass. Your mind will get clearer and clearer and then you’ll start laughing, a lot – just like you did when you were a kid.

But now you’ll think clearer as well, you’ll have more inspiration. All the dots will start connecting and the puzzle pieces will come together. You’ll talk less but think more. You’ll be getting wiser. See? Adulthood doesn’t feel as scary anymore. Congratulations, you’re growing up, kid.

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A quick thought on pain

Quant by Vyacheslav NovikovPain is a natural consequence of our very existence, that we cannot eliminate.  Pain, be it physical or emotional,  is essential to our development. Pain signals there is something wrong, something that we might be able to  fix.  If there was no pain, that wrong would be still there but we would not know about it, endangering our well-being even further. Feeling pain, on the other hand gives us a choice, and enables us to do something about it. To fight against it. And fighting against it makes us stronger, firstly giving us an opportunity to better discover ourselves and secondly to be kinder towards the ones surrounding us. It is only when are challenged, forced to struggle and fight back that we find out more about ourselves. Not when we are happy. When we are happy, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and paradoxically often find ourselves doing foolish things. And it is exactly during those euphoric times that we actually don’t recognize ourselves anymore. We get carried away.On the other side of the spectrum, as we struggle, we learn we can do things we had never imagined we could before. We discover new talents, new sets of skills and learn how to overcome our fears. So instead of grieving, lamenting and crying our hearts out when we we’re troubled we should take hard times as an opportunity  to learn more about who we truly are. We should take our time and contemplate our pain, learn about it and from it. Pain, in excess, will bring about hate, some might say. And this is not untrue. I see it all the time. When some of us get hurt, usually by someone else,  we learn to hate. And hatred can be fulfilling too. When we hurt others, our hateful actions might mask the pain at the beginning but they eventually awaken hatred towards ourselves as well as guilt deep down, in a revolving cycle. Understanding our pain, however, will break us free from that cycle, and enable us to be kind to others, enable us us to grow in our own way.

Song of the week: Redemption Song by Bob Marley, a short analysis

One of my favorite songs of all time, Bob Marley’s redemption song is one metaphor after another. Released in October 1980, it was Marley’s last single before his death in 1981 and sums up his principles on freedom and redemption.

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Old pirates, yes, they rob I/ Sold I to the merchant ships

‘I’ stands for the African collective that was robbed from its sovereignty and cultural roots and sold into slavery by the colonial powers. While many slaves were sold overseas to the American continents, a lot of slaves were used on the African continent in gold mines or plantations.

Minutes after they took I/ From the bottomless pit

The bottomless pit represents the precarious conditions slaves were held in, be it the hulls of the ships or dark slave prisons. On the other side, the bottomless pit was actually also interpreted as completely opposite as rather being Africa’s immensity and wealth of resources, hence timeless, infinite, bottomless.

But my hand was made strong/By the hand of the Almighty

Even though he has endured hardships, God has given him strength to carry on.

We forward in this generation/Triumphantly

A lot of progress has been made with the abolition of slavery and the Civil Rights movement.

Won’t you help to sing/ These songs of freedom?

Won’t you help with the continuous fight against racism? While a lot of progress has been done there is still much more to be done.

Because all I ever have / Redemption songs As this song was written at a time when Bob Marley was diagnosed with cancer, he contemplated his mortality and realized that the only way he will make an impact is through his songs, which will transcend his death.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/ None but ourselves can free our minds!

These verses were actually derived from a speech by Marcus Garvey, a proponent of Black Nationalism and Pan Africanism [“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind” – Garvey, 1937]. While slavery has been abolished and ‘bodies’ have been freed, the minds are still enslaved. Racism as well as other limitations such as greed, selfishness etc. prevents the human race from progressing and sometimes we can be morally complicit by not taking action. However, change always starts from within, at a personal level.

Have no fear for atomic energy /Because none of them can stop the time

While atomic energy is a relentless form of destruction it is nowhere as powerful as time, which will have its final say on everything.

How long shall they kill our prophets /While we stand aside and look?

Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the countless martyrs that died for equality ideals.

Some say it’s just a part of it/We’ve got to fulfill the book The book here can either refer to the Bible [The prophets in the Old Testament testified to the suffering that God’s people would have to endure before the end would come, and before the Messiah would return] or simply to destiny, in completion of the ‘master plan’.

Who are the gypsies?

TAlfred_Dehodencq_A_Gypsy_Dance_in_the_Gardens_of_the_Alcázarravelers, crystal ball witches and thieves. People to avoid. That’s the general stereotype that has been perpetuated across Europe. ‘Gypsy’ has become a prerogative term that denotes primarily treachery. It doesn’t seem to depict a category but rather a negative characteristic.

The incentive to write this short article came from one question that a friend asked me not long ago and made me realize that most people don’t actually know that a ‘gypsy’ is more than an adjective:

‘You mean gypsies are a different ethnicity? I thought gypsy was a way of life.’

Flag of the Romani People adopted in 1977 by the World Romani congress

Despite the social stigma that has been attached to gypsies, being a gypsy is not a way of life nor a choice. It’s an ethnicity. While gypsy is the most known exonym amongst Ashkali, Sinti or Sindhi, most academics and gypsy communities prefer the term Roma or Romani when referring to their ethnicity, culture, or language. Yes you read right. Gypsies, or the Romani people have their own ethnicity, culture, language and even their own flag [although not universally accepted]. Sometimes the word ‘gypsy’ is attributed to Irish Travelers due to their nomadic nature but they are two distinct categories.

A brief history of the Roma

The Roma people, or the Romanies, are not, contrary to the common belief originally from Romania nor do they name has anything to do with the country, as it doesn’t have to do anything with Rome or the Romans either. However, one of the largest population of Romanies has settled in Romania, where the gypsy slave trade was first documented in 1385.

Romanian ad for gypsy slave trade

Romanian ad for gypsy slave trade

According to a genetic study finalized in 2012  the initial founding group of Romani likely departed from what is now the Punjab state in northwestern India close to the year 500 CE. From there, they likely traveled through Central Asia and the Middle East but appear to have mingled only moderately with local populations there. The subsequent doorway to Europe seems to have been the Balkan area—specifically Bulgaria—from which the Romani began dispersing around 1,100 CE.

Since their arrival in Europe in the 12th century, Romanies have received mixed reactions around Europe, enduring discrimination, slavery and genocide along the centuries. They were expelled from certain parts of Germany in Italy, France, England, and Denmark. Switzerland, Denmark and England even had laws in place to put to death any Romanies [1510-1589]  while Portugal began deportation of Romanies to its colonies in 1538.

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It is estimated there are about 12 -14 million Romanies around the world although an exact figure is hard to obtain as many gypsies tend not to disclose their ethnicity due to fear of discrimination.

Although Romani slavery was practiced in Wallachia [present day Romania] and Moldavia until abolition in 1856, the majority traveled as free nomads in their wagons,as alluded by the flag.  Elsewhere in Europe, they were subject to ethnic cleansing, abduction of their children, and forced labor. As a result, large groups of the Romani moved to the Eastern part of Europe, towards Poland and Russia which was more tolerant. While Romanies started emigrating to North America since colonial times, after the 1860s it intensified.

During the Second World War, Nazis embarked on a systematical genocide of the Romanies, a process known as the Porajmos to the Romani people. Romanies were often killed on sight on the Eastern Front and the total number of deaths is estimated between 220 000 and 1 500 000, making it one of the largest mass killings in history. During communist Czechoslovakia, Romanies were labeled as ‘socially degraded stratum’ [nothing really changed nowadays] and sterilized the women, in an attempt to reduce the Romani birth-rate and population.

Nowadays, the Roma population, especially in Europe struggle to integrate into modern society, facing discrimination and harsh nationalist policies. In 2009 and 2010, France deported around 20 000 Romanian and Bulgarian Romanies and destroyed more than 50 Romani camps. Strong sentiments against the Romanies don’t only persist in Western Europe but also in Eastern Europe as many Romanies reject education and resort to crime education due to social exclusion and stigma. Due to the acts of some, unfortunately the whole segment is targeted, thus calling for anti-discrimination and integration efforts from the EU.

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Romani is recognized as a minority language in Colombia, Germany, Hungary , Kosovo, Sweden and Ukraine.

The Romani Language

The Romani language is part of Indo-Aryan language with roots in Sanskrit and most Romanies speak one of its several dialects. Traditionally, it has been an oral language, with few records of it being written. Nowadays, if it is written at all, it is usually phonetically transcribed in the surrounding language. Some Romanies speak mixed languages based on the surrounding language with retain Romani-derived vocabulary.

The language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines. More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.

In the encyclopedia of languages, Matras (2006) views Romani as “kind of Indian hybrid: a central Indic dialect that had undergone partial convergence with northern Indic languages.”

Romani culture and beliefs 

While Romanies have departed from their ancestors’ Hindu religion and adhere predominantly to Christianity and Islam, their social conduit is strictly governed by Hindu purity laws (‘marhime’ or ‘marime’). As such, lower body parts are considered impure and lower body clothes are washed separately. Childbirth is considered impure and it must occur outside the dwelling place and the mother, after giving birth, is also considered impure for up to 40 days.  The Roma continue to practice Shaktism, a practice with origins in India, whereby a female consort is required for the worship of a god. Adherence to this practice means that for the Roma who worship a Christian God, prayer is conducted through the Virgin Mary, or her mother, Saint Anne. Shaktism continues over one thousand years after the people’s separation from India. maxresdefault

Women tend to wear long, colorful dresses and cover their heads most of the time. Virginity is very important in unmarried women and Romanies tend to get married at young ages, often through arranged marriages between families. Typically, Gypsies love opulence. In day-to-day life, Roma women wear gold jewelry and headdresses decorated with coins as a display of prosperity and generosity towards others. In Romania, gold is considered sacred by most gypsies and it is not to be sold. Romanies are some of the few in Romania that still possess golden coins.

Romanipen is a complicated term of Romani philosophy that means totality of the Romani spirit, Romani culture, Romani Law, being a Romani, a set of Romani strains..Sometimes a non-Romani may be considered to be a Romani if he has Romanipen; usually this is an adopted child. As a concept, Romanipen has been the subject of interest to numerous academic observers. It has been hypothesized that it owes more to a framework of culture rather than simply an adherence to historically received rules. (Saul, Tebbut, 2005)

Music plays a central part in Romanies lives in Central and Eastern Europe , and  the style and performance practices of Romani musicians have influenced European classical composers such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms.The distinctive sound of Romani music has also strongly influenced bolero, jazz, and flamenco (especially cante jondo) in Europe.

In Romania And Bulgaria, Romani traditional music is mostly played at weddings but nowadays it’s mostly associated with the modern Romani genre, manele, which fuses traditional Romani music with elements of  Pop or sometimes Reggeaton music.

Manele has been often criticized for its poor quality lyrics emphasizing wealth, alcohol-abuse, machoness and an insatiable hunger to have and defeat one’s enemies as well as for its indecent depiction of women in music videos. The lyrical content as well as it’s video content is not far off from Reggaeton in Latin America or commercial hip hop in the United States. Manele is mostly listened to by the lower class in rural areas but it is not uncommon in the urban either. The video I have provided here is a more traditional-oriented style of ‘manele’ and I have chosen to show it as it accurately depicts a relatively wealthy gypsy neighborhood in Romania but if you want to immerse yourself more into the world of manele, one simple Youtube search will satisfy your curiosity.

For these reasons both manele singers as well as listeners have been labeled as ‘manelisti’ or ‘cocalari’ and are considered of a lower strata, be it social, economic or intellectual. The social stigma attributed to the manelisti is similar to the stigma attributed to the bachateros in the 70’s and 80’s in the Dominican Republic.

A Gypsy’s story 

It is estimated there are about 12 -14 million Romanies around the world although an exact figure is hard to obtain as many gypsies tend not to disclose their ethnicity due to fear of discrimination. Most Romanies find it hard to integrate into the societies they live in and end up resorting to crimes, which fuels a circle of discrimination, making it even harder for the ones that are trying to adapt. The Romani people have been in Europe for centuries and they have developed a culture of survival, which is unlikely to grow weaker. Maybe as their culture will come to be understood more, better integration policies will be put in place. Time will tell. To end our gypsy lesson for today, I recommend listening to the Romanies hymn, astoundingly delivered by the Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra.

Translation:

I went, I went on long roads

I met happy Gypsies

O Gypsies, where do you come from,

With tents happy on the road?

O Gypsies, O Gypsy people!

I once had a great family,

The Black Legion murdered them

Come with me,

Gypsies from all the world

For the Gypsies, roads have opened

Now is the time, rise up Gypsies now,

We will rise high if we act

O Gypsies, O Gypsy people!

Open, God, White doors

So I can see where are my people.

Come back to tour the roads

And walk with happy Gypsies

O Gypsies, O Gypsy people!

Up, Gypsy people!

Now is the time

Come with me,

Gipsyes from all the world

Dark face and dark eyes,

I want them like dark grapes

O Gypsies, O Gypsy people!

 

The 5 essential DONTs on a Salsa/Bachata dance floor

If you enjoy dancing Salsa, Bachata or other Latin social dances you’ve all probably been to salsa parties or social dancing nights. And you’ve probably witnessed these recurring atrocities people commit on the dance floor. So please, for the sake of enjoying a dancing party and contributing to an overall appropriate atmosphere avoid and spread awareness about these 5 dance floor atrocities that should be combated.

1) Don’t be that creep

If you don’t know how to dance, don’t just go to a Salsa/Bachata party and assume you can just start grinding on girls and you’re gonna get away with it. If you’re a girl or if you go to a Kizomba party that might be a different story. If you200 don’t know the steps just ask politely and most girls (or guys) won’t have any problem in teaching you the basics. But if you insist you don’t need any basic knowledge of the steps at a Salsa/Bachata party you should go dance somewhere else, probably Kizomba.

2) Don’t be that dance-creep-block  

I’ve seen it countless times. There’s got to be at least one dude on the dance floor that wants to dance 5 songs in a row with that pretty girl that everyone wants to invite to dance. DON’T BE SELFISH BRO! SHE PROBABLY DOESN’T EVEN LIKE YOU BUT SHE’S TOO DAMN POLITE TO TELL YOU TO BACK OFF AND THOSE 5 SONGS YOU FORCED HER TO DANCE WITH YOU ON WERE ENOUGH TO CREEP THE HELL OUT OF HER AND MAKE HER LEAVE. You’re not only ruining her night but also the night of other guys that might actually have a chance with her. If you like a girl and want to dance several songs with her continuously simply make sure she feels the same way. Alternatively, go to the Kizomba room where dancing continuously with your partner for like 10 songs in a row is not uncommon. (even more that most Kizomba songs sound the same)

3) Don’t be that stalker

Now it’s okay to go and ask someone once, twice, thrice etc if you’ve had particularly good dances with that person but DON’T overdo it, especially if that someone is CLEARLY looking for someone else to dance with. Whether you’re a boy or a girl you’ll definitely notice when someone is going for someone-else to dance with. So don’t be that guy/girl that just grabs them as they set to dance with the person they want to dance with. 1)They will probably say no as they were going to ask that better/more attractive dancer and 2) they will probably hate you now since while they’ve wasted time explaining it to you, now their dance crush is dancing with somebody else. Way to go, you monster! It happened to me on several occasions to hide from certain persons, run away (literally) or pretend to be on the phone with my mother just to avoid being asked to dance for the 51st time by the person.

4) Don’t lead yourself

If you’re a girl, PLEASE, for the love of the DANCE GOD, don’t lead yourself. Or at least minimize your self-leading. I know feminism is trending nowadays, I’m all for gender equality and women rights and I despise sexism, but MEN lead in Salsa and Bachata. In Kizomba they grind, but that’s a different story. When you lead yourself, not only do you risk hurting your partner [you know when you cling to his neck and try and to dip yourself] but you can also injure the others around you as well as yourself. You don’t have visibility behind you so if you don’t let your partner decide when the right moment for a turn or a dip is you’re going to be responsible for salsa traffic accidents. Moreover, you’re not going to be in sync with your partner. If you self-lead yourself most of the time, then you should probably change roles.

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5) Don’t be that salsa douche-bag

Yes you got better at dancing, you’ve watched some YouTube videos, attended some fancy dips and tricks workshops and have recently bought a nice pair of dance shoes and a silk shiny shirt. But remember that not everyone can do fancy, complicated moves especially acrobatics and dips that require advanced flexibility. Not only do you risk injuring your partner but also the other around you, especially when the dance floor is busy. I’ve witnessed countless times salsa dancers trying advanced tricks and dips with beginners just for the sake of showing off and ended up either a)dropping the girl on the floor, sometimes even falling together or b) hitting someone else around. And that eventually led them to actually be banned from some venues. Be mindful of the others around you. If you really are an uncontrollable salsa acrobatics Frankenstein-like freak with an insatiable hunger for dancing just go to a Kizomba party and chill-out. No tricks or dips there.

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My views on religion

Why I don’t like religion.

I am not a religious person and I can fervidly say I despise religious dogma. I think that religion has caused a lot of harm, from instilling wars to corrupting young minds and exploiting the vulnerable. Many denominations of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Scientology etc have brainwashed people, deepening both their ignorance and arrogance, enclosing and narrowing their mind through homophobic, sexist and racist ideas (just to name a few). And in most cases it’s not the religious text themselves that are at fault but the churches themselves that discourage independent research and constructive criticism. Moreover, some of the most arduous preachers I have met have been some of the most hypocritical as well, that don’t practice what they preach and seem to always find themselves as exceptions to the rules they cherish so much.(when it comes adultery and violence just to name a few)

Now, do I think should religion be eradicated? Definitely not. Do I hate religious people? Not in the slightest. Do I think we can learn from religion? Most certainly, and here’s why:Wikipedia_Wordle_-_Religion

Why I don’t hate religion

Now as I’ve said, I met many hard-headed narrow minded religious people but also met some of the kindest, most helpful and open minded ones as well and I had a lot to learn from them. I learned a lot from Christians (be it Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant or Mormons), Muslims (Sunnis, Shias, Suffis), Buddhists (Theravada and Mayahama), Hindus, Tenrikyo-followers, Baha’is and still have a lot more to meet and learn from them. I don’t like the concept of religion because it can be used as a vile tool but as it can equally have a positive impact on people’s lives I can’t say I hate it. We can’t just put all religions and all the acts commited under religious dogma under the same tag as that will be unfair on the virtuous religious folks.

Now most non-religious people I’ve met or have come into discussions with have really strong opinions on why they hate religion and how it’s the worst and the most disgusting concept to ever plague this earth. And to be fair they bring valid and strong arguments to support their claims [most of them with which I agree] amongst which homophobia, sexism, violence instigation, brainwashing etc.

However, what I don’t agree with is with their solution to it. And they mostly fall into 2 categories: 1) they don’t have one, nor do they want to think about one and 2) eradicate religion altogether. None of these 2 make any sense nor are they helpful. 1) because as long as you’ll just whine about things with no action your whining is just redundant and fatalistic and you won’t manage to bring any change and 2) just doesn’t make any sense as it would be impossible.

RELIGIONES

What’s there to do about religion?

Many people fail to grasp how religion has and is still a big part of our civilization as human beings.  Religion has accompanied us from the very beginning of our civilization and offered guidelines (both good and bad) on how to organize ourselves, cooperate and advance. Just think about religion’s role in creating the 7-day week with 5 (or 6) working days and the 7th for rest. (as creation says) or the Gregorian Calendar, basing our Era on Jesus Christ’s date of birth (BC, AD) (this is widely accepted, there still are, of course, cultures where different calendars or working week systems are being used). And these are only a couple of things that have become so embedded in our culture that we don’t even realize. And just how Christianity has influenced Western culture so has Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism influenced Eastern one. (again, culturally the world is not limited to West vs East, there’s a North and South as well, and they’re not entirely homogeneous, I know, but that is a far more complex discussion)

And how did religion evolve or where did it come from? Some would say it was a message from a higher power, I would say it came from our continuous sought for answers. When science could not answer our questions, religion came in to fill the gaps. As such, across time, different cultures found different ways of answering those unanswered questions. Whether it was Egyptian, Greek or Nordic Mythologies or Abrahamic, Indian or East-Asian religions, they have all attempted to satisfy the uncertainties prevalent in their era from simple questions about the sun and the moon to existential issues such as purpose of life, death, salvation. Religion, itself was born from the unknown and the incapacity of solving the unknown.

Until questions and claims can be verified by each religion and until a consensus will be reached, there will differences in thought and practice. For example, as long as you can verify a claim and support it scientifically it will be universally accepted. But when pondering existential questions, especially meaning of life and after-death, issues that have not been answered concretely with evidence, everyone will have a different interpretation, based on individual or communal circumstances. Compared to a couple of centuries ago, now it’s easy to answer questions such as ‘Where does rain come from?’ and you can easily reject answers such as a ‘God’s tears’, since our understanding of physics has allowed to comprehend the mechanisms before it to the extent that we can replicate it in a jar. ‘Make rain’ in a jar and show it to believers in ‘god’s tears’ explanation and they will certainly change their ways of thinking. (hopefully they’ll not cast you a witch and burn you). But when it comes to what happens after death, which is scary for the majority, a consensus is impossible to be found. As long as such questions will ponder humanity there will always be various religions which will attempt to fill the gaps.  When science can’t provide people with the answers they desperately need, the majority will turn to religion for ‘help’. It is no wonder then that when some people are diagnosed with terminal conditions they turn to religion as the current science deny them the possibility of a cure either in the hope of a cure or salvation after death. And it’s not abnormal. The human race has been fighting for survival ever since and will keep on, no matter how reasonable or unreasonable its means will be.

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That is why religion is here to stay, whether we like it or not and removing it from the picture would simply be impossible. So rather than eliminating it we have to find ways to adapt it to our current era. Religion is not, as many would say, the antonym of science. When all religions will find a consensus then we will know there will be no need for science. Or put it the other way, when science will answer all questions we have, there will be no need for religion. One way or another, sooner or later (a lot later most probably) there will be no need for science or religion as they will be irrelevant concepts. We’ll just have knowledge. But until then both are here to stay. While constructive criticism is an extremely helpful and of utmost importance to our development as human beings, removing religion is simply not an option. While constructive criticisms are of utmost importance to our development, generalizations and attacks against the concept of religion are less likely to prove worthwhile or beneficial.