Why Be Lonely

Why be lonely? Many reasons, such as losing a partner or a close friend; breaking up with someone; being tied to the house through having to care for someone; getting old and finding that the world is rushing past.

Or moving to a new area far from family or friends; being marginalised because of race or colour or disability; recovering from abuse and feeling unable to trust anyone.

Or feeling unlikeable, or being shy or afraid to make contact.

Imagine a single parent or a carer who comes into money and can afford to hire someone to give them a break so they can go out and meet people. How would they feel?

If just thinking of that possibility fills them with pleasure then they are lonely. It’s just force of circumstance that is the problem.

People who are lonely through force of circumstance – too old or infirm to leave the house, or marginalised because of poverty or race or colour, or being far from family or friends – need other people to reach out to them and would welcome the contact if it happened.

If, on the other hand, the thought of meeting people fills them with dread then there is a more serious problem.

If they experience being with other people as a trial, they would want to avoid it. Or they might put on a mask and go through the experience but be isolated from it.

They might fear that other people would detect that there is no substance to the relationship.. nothing beyond the politeness and the jokes… no down-time in which to get close and to share inner feelings.

Or maybe the person doesn’t think much of the people they are in contact with and takes the position that they are waiting for the other people to step up to the plate and be deeper and more meaningful in their interactions.

Yet when the person who suffers from loneliness asks themselves whether maybe they should make the first move to deepen relationships, they are inactive and retreat and play the same record of the inadequacy of other people, over and over.

This is bordering on a mental health problem and if someone is clinically depressed then they need treatment just as much as they would if they had a physical disease that can be treated by medication.

But perhaps it is not clinical depression, but unhappiness caused by dissatisfaction with one’s situation.

Right back as far as the Old Testament one can read:

Be happy with all the good that your God has given to you and to your household and to the Levi and to the stranger who lives in your community. [Deuteronomy 26.11]

I think the reference to ‘the Levi and stranger’ are to people who are better off and to those who are worse off than you.

A person who is not content will look at their situation and recoil from it. And they won’t be happy because they are always in a state of recoiling from their situation.

There’s a danger too for the person who takes the advice to be happy to heart but doesn’t think it through.

Being content with what one has doesn’t mean being satisfied with anything and everything.

The message is to be happy with the good. It doesn’t say to be content and to sit like a sloth.

What the advice from countless sources surely means is that being happy with the good in one’s life is a firm foundation from which one can explore what life has to offer.

As for what to explore, the question is what will bring real rewards and what will bring rewards that are illusiary.

And trying to figure that out ahead of time may be wise, but equally it is the journey of discovery that makes the person.

Stepping back a moment, there is another more fundamental message in the advice to be happy with the good. The implied message is that people need to be told that because they don’t do it.

People don’t need a law or advice to tell them not to chew stones. But people need a law and advice telling them not to steal.

And in the same way, people need to be told to be happy with the good because the tendency is to be unhappy.

I read an interesting angle on depression recently but unfortunately I can’t find the source or I would give the attribution. What the writer said was that depression is sometimes the result of poor planning.

The writer gives the example of a young man who wants to date a popular young woman.

He knows she likes dancing so he invites her to a dance. She refuses and he is depressed.

The writer says that the problem is that the young man gave all the power over his happiness to the young woman.

And, of course, he can’t control her.

Instead, he would be better served by taking dancing lessons, becoming a good dancer… one that young women want to dance with. Then the chances are much better that he’ll have success with someone he wants to be with.

That’s the message: do things you can control to make your life better and don’t get lost in dreams that depend on something or someone one cannot control.

And a second message is that making a bad decision that gives over one’s happiness to circumstances or to someone else isn’t necessarily going to cause a depression that’s terminal, but it is one piece in a jigsaw of pieces from which a person can build a prison for themselves.

People who are trapped in negative thinking tend to extrapolate from single events to a world view. A bad interaction convinces them that they are no good. A more balanced view would be to recognise that it was just one interaction and that they can learn for the future.

Of course, being in a positive la-la land is just as unrealistic.

Anything that helps people get a greater understanding of the relationship between their thoughts and feelings and how it plays out in their behaviour, is going to be helpful. It’s all good if it shows people that their negative thought patterns are creating a prison… and gives them a way out.

Let me finish with a message from the famous psychologist Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search For Meaning.

Frankl says very forcefully something that I also believe – that optimism is an obligation because it is realistic to look to the highest in people in order to get the very best out of what is actually there in people.

One Trillion Dollars of Mineral Ore Found In Afghanistan

One trillion dollars of mineral ore found in Afghanistan is a lot of mineral wealth in anyone’s estimate. Who will benefit?

A news article in the New York Times reports on the previously unknown extent of mineral deposits in Afghanistan. A quote from page two of the article reads:

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

The article also refers to “An internal Pentagon memo that states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.”

As of June 2008, Wikipedia’s entry on Mining in Afghanistan states:

The country has extensive deposits of barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semiprecious stones, salt, sulfur, talc, and zinc. Precious and semiprecious stones include high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, and ruby.

A Reuters Report from March 16, 2009 states:

A U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had shown that the war-torn nation may hold far higher amounts of minerals than previously thought, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel said.

“In the field of minerals, Afghanistan is the richest country in the region, much more, hundreds of times more. Except for diamond, you have all the other minerals that you find in nature, in Afghanistan,” Adel told Reuters in an interview late on Sunday.

Based on the USGS survey, he said, Afghanistan’s north is estimated to hold between 600 to 700 billion cubic meters of natural gas and the country has some 25 million tonnes of oil in four basins.”

According to the Afghan Embassy, Mr. Muhammad Ibrahim Adel is the Minister of Mines and Industries in Afghanistan.

On its page describing the Afghan Geological Survey, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of Mines recites:

Like other government institutions, the Afghanistan Geological Survey was seriously weakened during more than two decades of military conflict, and suffered from a lack of investment and skills development. Throughout this period of conflict and during the later rule by the Taliban, the staff of the AGS salvaged and protected documents, maps and samples, often at great personal risk to themselves and their families. After the Taliban left Kabul in December 2001 these precious data were returned to the Survey.

Following the fall of the Taliban regime, the Government of Afghanistan, with the assistance of international donors, began formulating a mining sector strategy and policies. Amongst many things, this recognized the need for the rehabilitation and restructuring of the Afghanistan Geological Survey to help it perform as a modern geological survey and implement a program of geological mapping and resource assessment using modern concepts and methods.

In response to this need, in 2004 the British Geological Survey and United States Geological Survey commenced collaborative projects with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and Ministry of Mines. These projects are funded by the Governments of Britain and the United States of America respectively. Together they are implementing a comprehensive program of capacity-building, geological mapping, evaluation of mineral and hydrogeological resources, and the creation of geological and mineral databases and geographical information systems. A mining cadastre office is also being established. These programs are providing comprehensive training for Afghans.

The site in turn refers to the United States Geological Survey and from there to the report #3063 Preliminary Assessment of Non-Fuel Mineral Resources of Afghanistan, 2007 which states:

Afghanistan has abundant mineral resources, including known deposits of copper, iron, barite, sulfur, talc, chromium, magnesium, salt, mica, marble, rubies, emeralds, lapis lazuli, asbestos, nickel, mercury, gold and silver, lead, zinc, fluorspar, bauxite, beryllium, and lithium.

The Minerals Law of Afghanistan 2005, drafted with the aid of the World Bank and recited in the publication issued by the Department of Minerals of the Ministry of Mines and Industries of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan states at Article 4, paragraph (1)

“All naturally occurring Mineral Substances and all Artificial Deposits of Mineral Substances on or under the territory of Afghanistan or in its water courses (rivers and streams) are the exclusive property of the State.”

Disaster Looms

Arrgh, Disaster looms!

Well, that will push people along and you might think it is a laudable idea to get people to do good. The problem with it is that it tacitly makes the argument that doing all the things we do is OK so long as the consequence is that we do not cause famine, total breakdown, etc.

I have a slightly different argument on the ‘why’ of how we should proceed, which is this:

There may be room for argument about the effect that man is having on global warming. There may even be room for argument about whether we are experiencing global warming as anything other than a blip in the graph.

What is not in doubt is that we are destroying the Earth with pollution.

So I say don’t let arguments about global warming be a red herring to deflect from the fact that we should clean up the mess we are making.

It doesn’t or shouldn’t need the justification that we are facing disaster.

A tree does not need to justify its existence.

We do however need to justify destroying it, whether or not at some point down the road the fallen tree will get its innocent revenge by releasing CO2 and killing the planet.

And careful housekeeping – looking after the place and not treating it like a rubbish tip – is simply good manners and a show of gratitude.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo and Darfur

The scene is the Guardian Stage – a large marquee – at the Hay Festival at Hay on Wye in Wales. The audience has chosen to come to this particular interview out of a choice of five events dotted around the festival site. All begin at 5.30pm on this Sunday 24th May.

The interviewer has asked a question and the guest, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, answers. He says, “You ask what would happen if the U.S., the E.U., Russia, and China could agree to bring pressure on Sudan to stop the extermination in Darfur? It would stop in one day, in one day.”

That answer was given by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. For a moment he looked very dark and he bowed his head and looked to one side.

A few minutes before, in a self-deprecating and humourous way, he had explained to us in the audience and to the interviewer, Philippe Sands, how he came to be chosen as the prosecutor to the ICC. He explains what is expected of him and what he expected from the job.

Now with is dark comment on the situation in Darfur, the hall was silent for a long moment.

The International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court was established under a treaty between the signatory countries from around the world. The signatories effectively agreed to a certain standard of justice that applies everywhere.

What they agreed was that they would prosecute, at a national level, the most serious crimes. They agreed that they would not allow themselves to turn a blind eye or look the other way in respect of crimes that were committed by the state itself or by powerful forces in government or otherwise.

And further, that if they did not do so, then they would submit the cases to the jurisdiction of the court they set up – the International Criminal Court.

It is easy to see the pragmatic reasoning behind the treaty. If a country that was a signatory to the treaty fell into the hands of a regime that murdered its opponents, then, of course, that regime would not bring cases of murder perpetrated by itself before the national courts. Nor would it allow its opponents to do so.

But an international court, safely situated in the Hague – that court could bring cases and in doing so it could pursue justice and in the wider political context, hasten the end of the regime.

The specific remit of the court is set by the Rome Statute and under Article 5 of the Statute the jurisdiction of the Court extends to:

  • The crime of genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • War crimes
  • The crime of aggression

Other Courts

The ICC is not to be confused with the court set up by the United Nations specifically to prosecute serious crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia.

That court is the ICTY – its full title being ‘The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991’.

The ICC on the other hand is a permanent body set up by the 108 states who have signed and ratified the Rome Treaty, and thus the ICC is completely independent and separate from the United Nations.

But in the real world, as Luis Moreno-Ocampo explained, trying to bring a case is difficult without UN support for the kind of cases the court brings.

Nonetheless it is the prosector of the ICC who decides who he will prosecute and who he will prosecute first. He is not beholden to any person or body in that decision but on the other hand his department has no police force at its disposal, so the prosecutor is dependent on the national police force of the country concerned to arrest the accused.

Unless, of course, the accused strays into the territory of another signatory country.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo is currently prosecuting a serving head of state, Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan. Sudan is a signatory to the Rome Treaty, which is why the ICC can bring the prosecution.

And it is on account of that indictment that President Omar al-Bashir is unable to travel to any other country that is a signatory to the treaty, because if he did he would be arrested.

As to the significant signatories, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and other European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand have signed and ratified the treaty.

The United States and Russia have signed but not ratified the treaty and in 2002 the United States indicated that it does not intend to ratify the treaty – an act which the U.S. describes as ‘unsigning’ the treaty.

China opposes the treaty as a breach of the sovereignty of nations.

Becoming the Prosecutor to the ICC

Philippe Sands asked Luis Moreno-Ocampo about his background and he explained that he was a prosecutor in Argentina, prosecuting military commanders and former government ministers who had ordered the ‘disappearance’ of political opponents, and that he had also lectured in criminal law at the university in Buenos Aires, and had had a private law practice.

Then in 2003, when he was teaching in Stamford University for a year, he received a telephone call inviting him to take up a nine-year appointment as the prosecutor to the ICC.

He recounted how a friend had told him the offer of the job was a great honor, but he should refuse the offer because it was certain that whoever took the job would sit in an empty office for nine years with no cases to prosecute.

But Luis Moreno-Ocampo saw the job as an obligation and he was determined that he would prosecute cases. So he sold his law firm, resigned his position at the university, and quit his job as prosecutor in Argentina.

Philippe Sands asked him how he had been vetted for the job and he answered that he did not think the member states had spent too much time thinking about it. He was top of a list and he was hired. He knew he wanted to carry out his responsibilities and having been directed to an empty office in the Hague he had to decide which were the most serious crimes and who he should prosecute.


And then on to the subject of Darfur: Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated that Sudanese planes had repeatedly bombed and even now continued to bomb villages in Darfur and that the Janjaweed militia then attacked the villages, raped the women and attempted to drive the villagers into the desert to die.

The Rome Treaty specifies that if a member state prosecutes an offender, then the ICC cannot. Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked Sudan whether it would prosecute the man who appeared to be the initiator and organizer of the attacks on Darfur – Ahmad Harun, Minister of State for the Interior in Sudan.

In response, the president appointed Ahmad Harun as the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs.

When it became clear that Sudan was not going to prosecute Ahmad Harun, Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued an arrest warrant against him, accusing him of organizing the Janjaweed militia and being complicit in the deaths of many thousands of civilians in Darfur.

He was met with the defense that he was following the orders of the president – which the president confirmed, and in consequence, Luis Moreno-Ocampo issued an arrest warrant against the president Mohammed al-Bashir.

And so it was that, as this article began, Philippe Sands asked Luis Moreno-Ocampo what would happen if the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and the U.S. were to bring concerted pressure on Sudan to end the violence.

In his professional life as a prosecutor, both in Argentina and at the ICC, Mr Moreno-Ocampo must have seen and sifted through the evidence of the most violent and terrible crimes.

It is not fanciful therefore to see the sadness and the dark parts of his memory that he seemed to be visiting when he stated that if those nations were to bring concerted pressure on Sudan to end the violence, it would end in one day.