Thursday, 15 January 2015

I Miss the Cold War

Just a quick hello.
Still can't wrap my head around and 
digest the events in Paris last week. 
There has been every nuanced and every shade of opinion on the matters so I have nothing new to add.

But I miss the Cold War damnit.


If you are too young to remember it, let me tell you, 
it was the good old days of an ideological war.


 There was this thing called Star Wars - 
perhaps inspired by the movie - 
but both sides stockpiled weapons and the race was having the biggest pile.  


Sometimes it spilled onto the Olympics and the wrestler / swimmer / runner was not just the winner but the victor that championed either the "west" or the Soviet bloc.


I must have been channeling and reminiscing the Cold War  because I saw this on the tube the other day.

Dude, the cold war called.

They want their classified documents filled 3 number lock briefcase that even James Bond rejected in 1968 back.

#jesuischarlie

39 comments:

  1. Hi Naomi,
    I must say I don't miss the cold war, because what is happening now is a direct consequence of it.
    Your post is so ironic and fun though...
    laura

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    1. Thank you for understanding my warped sense of humour!

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  2. Hello Naomi,

    When we first came to Hungary, before its accession to the European Union, it really did feel that one was stepping behind the Iron Curtain unsure of what exactly might be going on. Some 15 years later we are still not entirely sure most of the time what is going on but it is more like twitching of the Net Curtain rather than than the Iron variety.

    Increasingly, as we travel more and experience daily life in other countries, we realise that cultural differences between nations are deeper and more complex than either we had thought previously or given notice to. But, cultural differences should be respected and valued otherwise prejudice, lack of toleration and violence can breed.

    It is, we agree, so difficult to make sense of everything which is happening in the world today. It is easy to say and difficult to practise, but love is really the answer to everything. But, how often do we give it a chance?

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    1. Funny I felt the cold war spy vibe in Vienna a little but maybe it's from the movies! Idealistically multiculturalism with love is the best and I champion it otherwise I would not have been born and life would have been very difficult. I wish people had more empathy and less ego. Works in personal affairs as well. Hope you are enjoying your time in Uruguay!

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    2. Used to love the old John le Carre Cold War spy novels! Though life didn't always feel secure back then either - if you can remember the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) theory behind the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and their testing. With closing all the windows in homes and offices, running lots of water into the bath and then hiding under a desk or table being the available protections in the event of a possible nuclear attack.

      Also, lived in London at height of IRA bombing campaigns in early 70s. Lots of places were bombed; railway station toilets were permanently locked because the IRA used to leave bombs in them; and even prams were suspect because they were frequently used as hiding places for bombs. There was also international terrorism, particularly airports and planes before all the security checks we now have. We were in Rome airport only 2 days after it was bombed and machine gunned, together with a plane on the ground. Many people were killed in this attack. Terrorism has been the great scourge of the second half of the 20th century and now the 21st. We all need to stand against it - and our hearts go out to those who have become victims - and their families, friends and colleagues.

      Yet realistically and sensibly, how much freedom of speech can we have? Very few countries have absolute freedom of speech. Laws differ depending on where you are. Most countries have laws against slander and libel; some have anti racial vilification laws; some have laws against use of offensive language. Many public servants have to sign legal declarations to comply with national security requirements which forbid speaking or writing about National Security issues which would breach national security: so no freedom of speech there either. If a newspaper published cartoons or stories attacking the Jewish religion or the Jewish God they would very quickly be accused of anti-Semitism and shamed. The designer John Galliano was fired for making anti-Semitic remarks. He had lots of admirers before this - but I wonder how many would have felt he should have had the freedom of speech to say what he liked and who would have protested against his sacking? I suspect not many.

      I'm in sympathy with the Pope, we should avoid ridiculing and mocking the key figures of any religion. Some freedom of speech is unwise to exercise. Agree with Jane and Lance, we need to have more respect, tolerance and love for others from different cultures and beliefs. Yes, Multiculturalism with love, Naomi!

      How does the freedom of speech used to attack a religious figure who is core to the faith of that culture benefit anyone? It can only lead to increased polarisation and zealotry and risk violence and terrorism. Of course the press should have the freedom to reveal and discuss in depth issues of serious importance relating to religious issues (whatever the religion), good or bad, that's different and essential. However a straight attack on the key core god whatever called: Jehovah, Yawe, Allah, the Buddha etc and his son or principal prophet(s) shows lack of respect and tolerance.

      Yes GSL, so true, if only our wars could stay cold. Pamela

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    3. It is pertinent that you mention the IRA because I only came to London at the tail end of the problems. But people here were even romanticizing that era now because for the most part with a few terrible notable exceptions they would call the local police station and warn them of a possible incident at a certain place at around x o'clock...

      Yes each country has their different parameters on "free speech". France and England though in western Europe have different guidelines. The notion of free speech has become a complex and tangled modern issue that will have I predict decades to go before one can agree.

      perhaps though it is because of my time albeit very limited as a lawyer - I define quite clearly between what is civic minded, moral minded, and legal. Those three things are very different and categorized in distinct boxes for me. because I was brought up with two clashing cultures I am very well aware what is considered the norm and respectful is considered completely outrageous in another. So then it becomes an issue of personal taste and cultural upbringing and whose is more valuable. For instance one of the main reasons why I didn't have a conventional wedding is because there was no way that my Asian side of the family would tolerate broken dishes and people breaking plates which signifies doom and disaster at an occasion like a wedding as I wed a Greek. I could not also request that the Greeks not partake of a custom that runs so deep in their culture. Hence we just had a small group because I didn't want to start our marriage on the wrong foot. Not as extreme as Charlie Hebdo but I hope you see my point. I agree it's not nice in a personal sense, nor is it civic minded but tolerance should be like minded and on both sides. In London, there is a split demographic of fundamentalists / relgious zealots that also attack atheists and agnostics and even believers who are not as "observant". So each party have their own experiences of being subjected to intolerance and lack of understanding from the other side.

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    4. Towards the end of the IRA terrorist bombings they did indeed call the police and give coded warnings (so the police would know it wasn't false alarm/joke call). But earlier there were no warnings. There was a dreadful bombing at the Tower of London for example - where they were targeting tourist spots - don't remember how many were killed. There was another where a friend of people my husband worked with was dreadfully maimed (think she lost both legs) just before her planned wedding. So I don't see the IRA or any other terrorism in a romanticised sense. Pamela

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    5. I hope there was no misunderstanding that you thought people were romanticising the IRA but they were saying how there were warnings. Harrods closed several times even after I moved due to warnings. The suddenness and no forewarning is the scariest mental aspect of all this so the very fact there were calls just seem so starkly different to the warnings Londoners were getting used to.

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    6. No, my main point was that there weren't always warnings. Only towards the end. I too was in a Department store (can't remember now, either Selfridges of John Lewis) with my mother when a bomb siren went off. The staff just ran off and left us. We had no idea how to get out of there quickly as we were up on a higher floor and there were no wardens to assist the public. Quite scary, specially for my mother as it was her first exposure to it. Turned out to have been a false alarm. I used to catch a train every day from Paddington tube station, probably an hour or so after I'd been through, the IRA blew up the newsagency we all walked past, right at the entrance to the station. Next morning it was a blackened ruin, totally destroyed.
      We tried to be alert and vigilant but I always felt safe - with the false confidence of youth - never thought anything would happen to me. But many people were killed or horribly injured.

      Later in the mid 90s the IRA suddenly began lobbing the odd explosive at Heathrow (I think the runways rather than terminals). Don't believe they gave any warning at that time. I happened to have just arrived one evening and the airport was in turmoil and confusion. There were no buses or trains into London and the taxi queue was literally miles long, winding around in circles. Luckily people began sharing to get away and into London. There were about 6 of us, all relieved strangers in the one I finally got. Have also lived in places where tanks would appear on streets when trouble was expected - in particular they'd take up positions near bridges. Not a comfortable feeling.
      Personally I think it's irresponsible to publish material that's deliberately and knowingly insulting and inflammatory, attacking people's core religious beliefs. It's playing into the hands of those who are looking for targets and just making the situation worse, not better. Boris Johnson wrote that when he was editor of the Spectator he decided not to publish items that were gratuitously inflammatory, particularly so because he felt he couldn't justify it to the widows and orphans of his staff. Pamela

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    7. Well to this day people don't touch empty plastic bags and throw away what is seemingly litter from the mindset of the old days. The real tragic thing is I don't know if not publishing cartoons will necessarily make the situation any better though...but thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. Love a good discussion Pamela!

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  3. Those were indeed simpler times...if only our wars could stay so cold.

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    1. I like clear boundaries myself and I hope everyone calms down and sees reason.

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  4. Naomi, So true. We thought those were scary times, but it's far more now. It's stressful to think of how unsafe these crazy radicals have made us feel in our own homes, or traveling. I hope a movement starts with people who are not radicals, of these religions speaking out more. It is happening, but slowly. They need to dispel the myth that these acts are being done in the name of any kind of 'God.' The more forceful and loud they are about that, these people may begin to doubt and less recruiting will happen... AT least that is all we can hope for.. Worse yet they are creating more hatred from all sides. Cannot we all live in peace? xx Kim

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    1. Yes it was scary but nothing like now. Guerrilla warfare is dare I say so much more powerful psychologically. I hope we can achieve steps towards peace too xx

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    2. Leslie in Oregon17 January 2015 at 03:07

      Having been a child, and later a Soviet specialist, during the coldest portions of the Cold War, I do not agree that the current terrorism is more frightening than the Cold War was. We were facing nuclear annihilation of the human race then, after all. Believe me, there is little more terrifying than the spectre of a nuclear war. Not that that's disappeared, but during the Cold War, we came unbelievably close to it. So yes, today's terrorism is indeed frightening, but, so far, entirely different than the Cold War. And to defeat today's terrorism, we must, among else, refuse to be afraid.

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    3. Thanks for your comment Leslie. Perhaps it is natural though to look back on the past snd either minimise or maximise the severity of a situation. Soviet specialist sounds fascinating and you must still find things interesting. But did you have the briefcase? ;)

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    4. Leslie in Oregon18 January 2015 at 00:23

      Nyet...I was not part of the covert services. For awhile, my speciality was deemed irrelevant, but it has become useful again. I actually work in a completely unrelated field. I agree that it is natural to minimize now what occurred long ago that was so very frightening (and always in the back or front of one's mind). And since I experienced the worst times of the Cold War as a child or young teenager, perhaps it was more frightening for me than for the adults around me. The Cuban missile crisis, however, terrified everyone who was paying attention, and that lesson in what could happen, and how easily it could happen, stayed close for a very long time thereafter.

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  5. Oh my goodness, I'd completely forgotten about some of the precautions we needed to take in case one of those weapons were to head our way. I remember at school in England being given advice in whitewashing one's house, and then remaining in the most central part of the building as protection against the fallout. I know, it seems quite laughable now, and how gullible we children were.

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    1. In Korea we had drills where the city shut down for an hour once a month! It made us all aware we were still at war and everyone was vigilant. But I did wonder how hiding under a desk was defence...

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  6. My Dear, Dear Naomi
    The violence we do unto each other whether it is in the name of politics, or religion, or sex, who can make any sense of it? I guess that is why one never discusses politics, religion, or sex at the supper table, too dangerous. What can we do but spread a little peace, love, and happiness to the circle around us, and see where it goes…

    My memories of the Cold War intertwine with the M1 Abrams tank, having a somewhat personal relationship with it…

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    1. Yes normally too dangerous indeed but the very option of being able to express oneself seems to be at stake. But I do remember Reagan going on about the soviets and now it does seem like pantomime looking back!

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  7. I hated the cold war - it was pretty scary in its heyday, I recall and a little more "let's take the whole world out" in its execution. Having said that, I miss clear villains that stay in their own countries and shoot from a distance. This infiltrated from within, by disenchanted or crazy young men wanting their kick at those virgins in heaven, leaves me less than comfortable. I love that briefcase!

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    1. I too like a clear enemy...I had to look twice bc it's rare to see a suitcase that I was looking if he was going to do a switcheraoo!!

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  8. Well put Naomi and that briefcase is so cold war! I always appreciate your take on things!

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    1. You know kaiser Karl will do a briefcase for Chanel ss2016!

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  9. The only question I have and remains unanswered is who benefits from all this...

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  10. Loving this post, I remember all the stupid advice and "helpful" hints. At one of my summer jobs, the "summers" had to carry out a file search and we moved a cabinet in the file room and found a door - we broke in and the place had been fixed up to be a kind of bomb shelter with pamphlets, outdated army rations, gloves, water jugs... We couldn't imagine who'd set it up, it was only big enough for one or two people. Selfish people.

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    1. You were one of the more advanced groups - most of the stories I hear involve desks and sitting under them!

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  11. ditto!!
    now they lurk from any corner or market place aisle.....every....where
    debra

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    1. This shadowy business is very disorientating...

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  12. Hi Naomi, I'm still depressed over what happened in Paris last week. It's unbelievable. If I saw a briefcase like that now on the subway I would probably get my panic attack going. Dude, what is inside that thing? Is he kidding me? On a much lighter note, get cracking on your story about Betty Halbreich because I need a mental lift and you can always make me laugh, even when I am blue. XO, Jill

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    1. He probably is a wanna be as most spies would not do that right - it;s like when famous people walk around with bodyguards and baseball caps wanting to be discreet! yes I think I shall xx

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  13. Ooh, is 80's civil-servant chic back in?

    It just shows you how bad things really are when we start sentimentalising The Cold War.
    We'll be regressing to 'Free speech doesn't mean careless talk' next, after the 'Keep calm and carry on' onslaught!

    On est tous Charlie!
    Oh yes we are! London is the sixth largest French city, and the UK has a population more or less the same as France, in an area one third of its size. Well, the ties that bind The British Isles and France are age-old and deeply cut. We were French, and France was English...still are!


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    1. Like totally back in I tell ya! I think those posters are still a ways away bc no one can still define limits of free speech and all the conditions that it would look like the back of a medicine bottle.

      Yes, times like this any silly rivalry goes away and one is reminded rivalry is actually done with an underlying mutual respect.

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  14. This whole free speech thing is actually starting to rile me. Free speech is one thing but in my opinion offending, belittling or disregarding something/someone is another. I don't recall experiences of the Cold War personally but I must say we are presently living in equally scary, if not more scary times where we have to expect the inevitable and unexpected. That guy could be Norman Bates with a briefcase! xx

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    1. I was maybe too young to give a valid opinion but I do remember going to harrods but they closed bc of a threat with a call from the IRA. Bloody scary I thought back then and my mother was against me coming to study here even...but thanks for sharing your thoughts Colleen bc I find it all very interesting! Xx

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  15. The world is crazy. I try to build peace in my little corner. All we can do.

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  16. Cannot believe that photo of the legs on the tube.

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