About the EU. Inspired by a taxi ride through Kansas City.

I have been struggling with the memory of an unpleasant experience. It went like this: I visited Kansas City on business, and on the last day I had to go back to the airport by taxi. The driver was a young man, probably in his early thirties, intelligent and engaged. I always chat with the taxi and Uber drivers. The conversation was pleasant enough, until at some point the driver noticed that I was from Europe and brought the discussion to Brexit. Today, Brexit is practically over and done with, but at that time the initial discussions between the UK and the EU were in full swing; Teresa May was still Prime Minister. I indicated that these negotiations weren’t easy, as both parties naturally had wishes, at which point, this young man said (watch my lips!): “The UK has the very right to leave the EU. The EU is fascist that they want to define the rules for Brexit. The EU is a fascist state.”

I must admit that I was speechless for several seconds. I then tried to explain to him, that from my viewpoint, the EU was founded as a reaction to the terrible wars and fascism of the twentieth century. I explained that the EU is a union that focuses on economic, political and societal unification, all with the sole purpose of defending democracy and human rights – to never let fascism happen again. And the EU has been quite successful at that too, as no war within the EU territory has occurred since 1945  (note: wars have happened outside of the EU boundary over the years, but luckily many of those countries later joined the EU).

He still wasn’t please with my answer, and pointed out that it was fascist to dictate the UK the rules by which they would leave. This shocked me too, as this is the same naivety that many pro-Brexit Brits suffered from. I told him that the EU is one of the largest markets in the world, with approximately 450 million people (living in 27 countries). To get access to that market has big benefits for any third party, and the UK would need to comply to certain rules and restrictions to be rewarded that access. He still didn’t agree. I provided an example, a thought play. Let’s suppose, I said, that New Jersey would decide to leave the USA, what would happen? First of all, there is no clause in the constitution of the USA that would allow this, so the US president would send the army to force New Jersey to stay within the USA (similar as what happened during the US civil war between the north and south). In the EU, the constitution actually has such a clause. However, let’s presume that New Jersey would be allowed to leave: at that moment it would lose all its privileges. No free travel across the border to the neighboring states, no protection by the US army. Sure: no payment towards the central government, but in return also no subsidies or financial benefits from that government, so no access to other US universities, nor to healthcare services or using US insurance. Most importantly: no free trade with the remaining 49 states of the USA. New Jersey would need to negotiate this. Naturally, the USA (as it is much bigger market than New Jersey) would set the agenda in their interest, and dictate many of the rules. The UK may have 67 million citizens and a higher GPO than New Jersey, but still: the EU won’t simply give the UK access to their market for free.

Obviously, the driver rejected this idea immediately. His argumentation was simple: New Jersey was part of a country, my suggestion that it would leave the USA was ridiculous. Whereas the UK was an independent country. And independent countries are allowed to leave with all benefits, hence the EU was fascist. Well, I said, that is what many people in the UK believe, but they will have a brutal awaking.

To be honest, he did have a point, as perception drives reality. The EU (more in wikipedia) is a federation in development, the final step towards a United States of Europe has not been completed. This is illustrated by the paragraph mentioned above, which allows nations to leave the Union. In a real country such a clause is unthinkable.

People see the EU as an assembly of individual countries, but at the same time as a single unit. the view depends on what the situation is, and this is confusing as hell. Examples? The EU is seen as a single unit considering one of the best personal data protection laws in the world (GDPR) that forces all companies (such as Facebook, Google or Alibaba) to comply to if they want to do business with the EU. The EU also aggressively prosecutes monopolies by businesses. The EU has also established very strong human rights, across all nations, but this is already less tangible for the average citizen. Sure, the EU is best known for their unifying laws, such as the curve of bananas – which actually was a request from the banana producers themselves, and would have been implemented in affected countries anyway. In the USA or China, such laws exist too.

On the other extreme, sports is still the responsibility of the member states, rather than of the EU. So Olympic gold medals are counted by country. I didn’t do the math, but I suspect that the EU would blow most other countries out of the water if it comes to the number of Olympic gold medals. The EU has the best skiers through Germany, Austria and the Nordics; the best ice skaters through the Netherlands and the Nordics, the best sailors from French, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal (to name a few) – and the best soccer players from practically all countries. But does anyone in the world count Olympic medals this way? Naturally not, many will say. after all, the EU isn’t a country.

What are the causes for these views within the EU itself? Even within the EU, many people do not feel like Europeans, but feel like Belgians, Italians or Austrians. Europeans still feel very national. Whereas Russians, Americans or Chinese are constantly and efficiently infused (yes: indoctrinated) with patriotism, this is largely absent on an EU level. The EU is a very fact-based organization, with little room for emotion. In addition, Europe does a poor job advertising its merits to the ordinary people.

Interestingly, many Europeans project their anti-government sentiments on the EU. This is what happened during the Brexit referendum in the UK: research has shown that the pro-Brexit voters in reality didn’t know or feel much about the EU, but they did want to punish their own (British) government. So, the more the UK government argued that the EU was the best choice in the referendum, the more the population rejected that idea, and wanted to punish them for past and present sins. This led to the 51% majority (17M of the entire population) that voted for Brexit. Not an overwhelming majority (of which, due to advanced age, apparently 6M have in the meantime died). In the USA, this mistrust of the central government is also well established (most US Americans probably do not realize that their state government plays a big legislative role too – and if not the governor, than the local mayor – somebody has to set up the playing rules).

The EU is still on its path towards full federation, and (to me) this is the best way forward. The EU lives from solidarity among the member states, and this has lead to peace, prosperity, human rights. But until the EU arrives at that point, the perception of the EU will have its ups and downs. During dramatic events such Brexit, the refugee crisis or the Corona pandemic, many people immediately ask: “will the EU survive this?” Probably if somebody sneezes in Zimbabwe, somebody, somewhere will ask “Oh, is this the end of the EU?” Nobody would ask that about the USA, China or Russia (although we actually know from history that no nation can survive forever).

The reality is that EU is going strong. Admittedly, the refugee crisis has not been resolved satisfactorily, this is where the solidarity breaks to pieces (also think: Trump’s wall).  Still, I wager that the EU exited Brexit towards a stronger position. The Corona Pandemic led to more solidarity among the member states, and daring decisions for more federalization.

To the taxi driver in Kansas City: No, the EU is definitely not fascist. On the contrary.

On the ferry between France and the UK

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France. Photos from our trip to France and The Provence

We spent a few days in the south of France – the weather was in our favor, and we could make several  leisurely walks, drink coffee and have some excellent food. Especially beautiful is that time of day when the sun starts to go down (and the tourists are at dinner) to wander the small streets of the old villages.

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Venasque – one of the many beautiful villages in the Vaucluse valley

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Crossing the Rhone by ferry

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Buddy’s new girlfriend

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A Jules Verne inspired merry-go-round

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Sunset on our last evening

Images and Photos – check out my Pinterest channel for some beautiful pics

If you are a Pinterest user, and if you regularly browse imagery (for relaxation or work, or both ;), I invite you to follow me on Pinterest! Here are my categories and boards:

  1. I am very interested in Orientalist Art. These are paintings that provide a western-world view of what the orient should look like, and they have thus very little to do with the reality of the Orient, past or present. Having said that, this artform does remind me of the books that I used to read as a small boy, and has a great personal sentimental value for me. I collect related imagery here: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-orientalist-pics/
  2. If you are interested in my paintings, you can find all my original work at this link below. Perhaps, if you are the owner of one of my paintings, you may find a photo in that location, feel free to leave a comment! https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-orignal-paintings/
  3. During my travels across the globe, I occasionally take a shot of a graffiti. I collect these pictures on the board below. I am on the look-out for graffiti that is either mind-blowing, simply beautiful, or… a bit absurd.   https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-photos-of-graffiti/  
  4. All the images from my blogposts are automatically collected in this board: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/pics-from-clemens-blogposts-wwwclemenssutercom  This is all original work by me; I do not use stills from other sources  – I hope :-( warn me should you be the owner of one of these pictures, mistakes happen.
  5. I also collect some of my travel pics on this board https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-travel/ and some pics of our dog Buddy here: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/our-dog-buddy/ 

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Find more of my art-related blogposts: https://clemenssuter.com/tag/art/ 

 

 

 

Top Tip. iPhone as an eReader. Read Great Pandemic Adventure eBooks.

All over the globe – get my books on your iPhone or iPad ! Here’s the direct link to my pandemic adventure novels on iTunes.

I have an iPhone myself, and it is a great machine, isn’t it? I like iTunes mostly as a music player. I like its ability to view my music as albums, artists and songs, the searching capabilities are great stuff. The way albums open into color-matched track listings is attractive. And I use the playlist extensively, e.g. I have playlists like “play all music that I love and didn’t skip in the last three years”. These are Smart Playlists, with a breathtaking number of options available for user-created Playlists: it is incredibly powerful – and with thousands of songs, it is a fantastic way to listen to music  that you haven’t listened to for a long time. Things like that make the iPhone a great smartphone. I also like the UI of Now Playing. It is easy to add entire albums or individual tracks, and reorder them. iTunes by itself doesn’t offer the greatest user experience, but well – Ok.

iTunes is undervalued as an eBook store.

I do notice that more & more of my fans are reading my eBooks on their iPhone, and the sales of my books on iTunes are booming, but the functionality of iTunes as a bookstore is meager – when compared to the functionality as a music store. Still the biggest advantage is that if you read eBooks on your iPhone, you need just a single device to enjoy both music and reading – at the same time. I read all my newspapers and books on my iPhone, to tell the truth.

Here’s a great review of TWO JOURNEYS in iTunes.

My books on iTunes.

iTunes Review on Apple Books

Reader comment on iTunes concerning Clemens P. Suter’s TWO JOURNEYS

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Acclaim for TWO JOURNEYS

 “Move over, Cormac McCarthy, another survivor is traveling the Armageddon road. Clemens P. Suter’s apocalyptic thriller grabs you in the first couple of pages and never lets go. The reader feels real empathy for the main character’s plight as he begins a seemingly impossible 9,000-mile trip to learn his family’s fate. The cause of the calamity is mysterious but clues are uncovered along the way causing tension to build until we reach the shattering climax. Two Journeys is not to be missed.” – G. Dedrick Robinson, author of Blood Scourge

More about my books here: www.clemenssuter.com/books

iToons

Clemens P. Suter books on iTunes, iPhone

A snapshot of Fields of Fire can be found here.

The port of Saint Ives, Cornwall UK

Beautiful rain the whole night through, but we woke up to even more beautiful sunshine. Let’s start the day with a nice cup of Java… And then decide how to idle the rest of it away. http://www.amazon.com/Clemens-P.-Suter/e/B005C1GXTE

Famous castaways, jettisoned and marooned – stories from people that were left alone

The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.

How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos (the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.

Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).

Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?

In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.

Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.

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More from Japan – our trip to the land of the rising sun

More images from our trip to Japan – this time mainly Tokyo and Kyoto.

Below a snap from the Shinjuku Gyoen park. We visited a number of parks on this trip, and this one had a beautiful conservatory, a koi pond and two teahouses. Shinjuku is densely populated, and to escape into the green is a great distraction. But the high rises are always visible!

We also visited several museums and the MOMAT (museum of modern art Tokyo) was definitely a highlight. Especially intrigued by the paintings originating from the time of Second World War. Most were quite oppressive and disturbing to look at.

Better not travel by subway around rush hour- but sometimes it can’t be circumvented.

Below: a delicious cup of coffee with Macha-based cream!

The picture below was taken in Kyoto (the place where the Kyoto Protocol was signed). Ironic to see this air conditioner in action: cold air exits the smaller tube, hot air is released from the bigger exhaust. Great for the patrons, but not truly CO2 conscious.

More travel news here.

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