Sunday, 25 December 2011

Building Bridges

Ever since I was a child, I have always considered the Christmas season as a time of the year during which we ought to display our best qualities as human beings. Throughout the year, many people often end up burying themselves in their own personal matters without paying much attention to the community or the world they live in. Furthermore, there is little doubt that ignorance, misunderstandings, and various prejudices frequently lead to a degree of hostility or indifference when it comes to several relationships. As an imperfect human being, I am not immune from making mistakes, but the Christmas season serves as a reminder that I could do more for the community I live in. That I could start talking to a person once again in order to replace anger or ignorance with empathy and care or friendship.

Last Friday, I was contacted by one of my North Korean friends. Following the recent loss of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) much-admired Leader - Kim Jong Il - my friend invited me to meet him and some other friends to express our condolences formally. I did not hesitate. He picked me up from Ta' Xbiex and we went to an apartment in Qawra. Inside this barely-furnished apartment, there was a room with a portrait of Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall. Below the portrait, there were some beautiful flowers and wreaths displaying messages in Korean. Two young men stood guard on each side. A small video camera was recording the whole event. After bowing in front of the portrait (the Korean way of showing respect), I signed the visitor's book. We then went to have dinner at a restaurant in Ta' Xbiex.

Although I had already witnessed the generosity of my North Korean friends over the past year or so, I was impressed when they told me that they wanted to pay for my dinner. Even though they were not drinking any alcohol due to the mourning period, they insisted on buying a small bottle of wine for me. One of my friends even told me to order anything I wanted since they wanted to see me happy. They even gave me a number of gifts (see the photo above). Many of the gifts are DVDs from the DPRK. One of them is a movie (The Kites Flying in the Sky) with English subtitles. Such items are extremely hard to find outside the DPRK and I was so grateful for the fact that they showered me with such nice things!

During the few hours that we spent together, we talked about many topics. We exchanged our views on religion, the huge food portions served in many restaurants in Malta, illegal immigration, and other issues.

As I had dinner with my friends from the DPRK, I thought about all the negative things that are said about the country and its people. I thought about all the hatred that is directed against the DPRK. And I wondered about how much better this world would be if more people replaced their ignorance and hatred with knowledge and care.

On this Christmas Day, I encourage people all over the world to look at each other as part of a single family. Although each person and each government has their flaws, let us focus our energies on making positive differences. Let us sow peace and unity rather than hatred and division. Let us engage in building bridges rather than burning them!

Merry Christmas to All!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Church

The Human Family

Whenever the word "Church" is used, many people tend to associate it with a particular building or with a specific organisation. As far as buildings are concerned, there are several beautiful churches around the world. When it comes to organisations, there are also numerous ones such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and so on. Although the term "Church" could certainly refer to an architectural wonder or to a group of people, I prefer to go beyond these definitions.

To me, the Church consists of ALL human beings. Put differently, I consider the Church to be made up of the huge human family that includes all the people who have ever lived, are presently living, and even future generations. And yes...the human family or the Church is not limited to a group of individuals who gather in the same building every Sunday or who recite a particular set of prayers; prison inmates, athiests, agnostics, alcoholics, and suicide bombers, to mention just a few groups of people, are also members of the Church.

Us Versus Them

In view of the definition given above, a person cannot join or leave the human family. Regardless of what one says or does, they will always remain a member of such a family. Seen this way, the Church cannot be regarded as, say, a football club or a political party.

Throughout history, one could observe a tendency to carve the human species up into various groups. Each group would typically have a number of rules. The failure to comply with some or all of the latter would normally result in the suspension or even expulsion of the person who strays. In several organisations, the rules are laid down by a handful of individuals who are conditioned by the socioeconomic circumstances they live in. Once the rules are established, any person who questions them usually risks facing various types of threats. In many organisations, there is such a degree of fear of losing certain benefits or of being humiliated that numerous members resort to adopting a publicly conformist attitude whereby they avoid upsetting the status quo, even though their hearts might be tormented by countless doubts.

Over time, several groups pride themselves on being better than others. In some cases, a group can become so exclusive that any prospective new members are scrutinised very carefully prior to being allowed to join the organisation. Such behaviour leads to an us-versus-them mentality. It is hard to consider the latter as particularly beneficial to society because it usually encourages the creation of numerous stereotypes about all those people who do not belong to the same organisation. Furthermore, the division of human beings between those who are "with us" and those who are "against us" could also be said to contribute to a shocking degree of indifference towards all those who are perceived as outsiders.

Building Bridges

The world is made up of countless organisations. Although some are more inclusive than others, even those that stress the importance of peace and love in the world can generally be fairly hostile towards certain individuals. The us-versus-them mentality could still be witnessed in such organisations.

If one had to look at, say, various Evangelical Christian organisations, even if many of them might be working hard to combat various social problems such as drug addiction or alcoholism, most of these groups can be extremely harsh when it comes to anyone who does not express an interest in sharing their beliefs. Just to mention one example, a typical Evangelical Christian could easily say that since an atheist refuses to believe in God, they will suffer for eternity in Hell.

On the basis of what I have read about Jesus and in the light of how the Church was defined at the beginning of this article, the world would be a much better place if people tried to build bridges rather than burn them as a result of ignorance, fear or insecurity. If I am a true follower of Jesus, I must consider all other human beings as my brothers and sisters. I cannot see much love coming out of withdrawing love from other people simply because they are Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and so on.

The Importance of Love

As atheism and certain lifestyles appear to become increasingly popular in many parts of the Western world, simply labelling people as sinners or as infidels and threatening them with an eternity of suffering does not strike me as a response that is characterised by love. Furthermore, the effectiveness of such labels and fear tactics is highly questionable nowadays. In a world that is largely obsessed with instant gratification and with things that can be seen and measured, simply talking about one's "spiritual destination" following death is clearly not filling up the churches or leading to more people deciding to base their lives on the teachings of Jesus.

Moreover, I am always puzzled by how several individuals who describe themselves as Christian appear to feel comfortable when talking about the possibility of millions of human beings ending up in a place of eternal torment for one reason or another. I believe that true love can never rejoice at another person's suffering.

When a family member does something wrong, provided that there is true love, the other members might feel hurt or angry when contemplating the consequences of the act, but they would not desire any harm to befall that person. They would actually want to do everything possible to help the latter become a better individual. As far as I am concerned, if I were in Heaven, I would not be happy until I was sure that every other human brother and sister who has ever lived is also there to live as happily as possible, cured of all those things that drive people to harm themselves or others.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Fr. Mark Montebello on Xarabank 22-01-10 - Part 2

Gaddafi's Death

When I saw the first image of Gaddafi with blood splattered all over his face, I was shocked. When I watched the news footage of him dead only a few moments after his capture, I was disgusted. Although he was clearly hated by the rebels, I was hoping that in the case of capture, he would have been kept alive in order to be able to give his side of the story during a fair trial.

Some parties have argued that Gaddafi died as a result of cross-fire between his supporters and the rebels. I am more inclined to believe that he was executed.

I have been against capital punishment and also against the notion of revenge for as long as I can remember. Regardless of all the crimes that Gaddafi may have committed, I do not believe that he should have been beaten and killed. If it is true that human rights are universal, they cannot only be safeguarded for the people that we like.

Notwithstanding the ongoing demonisation of Gaddafi in many parts of the world, I was surprised to come across several pro-Gaddafi comments on YouTube that are rarely given any attention in the mainstream media. Some of them are featured below:

"Colonel Gaddafi, the world will miss you. You were an international symbol of defiance and a tower of strength in your support for the weak with your magnanimity. The wise will see through the mire of all the smear, lies and propaganda that the West has directed at you." - GlassSeagull

"I cried for this man I'm 26 yrs old male and I curse every single american and pro-american who supports their government a.k.a the biggest terrorist country on the planet EARTH!!! What did he do to deserve this? R.I.P. Gaddafi you are a HERO!!!!" - HulkHooligann

"you will go to heaven oh great king!!!!" - oaxacaismo

"They just kill body, not his soul....." - lelemdronik

"it is funny how the western media never interview the people who support Gaddafi. Always on the TV they have the people who hate him. When even we in the west KNOW he has loads of Libyan supporters." - girlznguitarz

Some food for thought!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Letter to Kikko

Dear Kikko,

When I woke up this morning, I was hoping you would jump onto the bed as usual so that I could stroke you while you purred. You used to make me laugh when you would raise your paw for me to continue stroking you whenever I stopped doing so. I looked at your small bed, but it was empty. I waited to hear your "good morning" cry, but there was only silence.

When I went to prepare my coffee, I saw your favourite food bowl. Do you remember how you would start jumping as soon as I touched it? Do you remember how happy you used to be whenever I gave you one of those special treats? I looked at the bowl, remembering how Wendy and I smiled joyfully as we saw you eating from it last Saturday. The bowl is still there, waiting for you...

When I returned home today, I did not find you waiting for me just behind the door. I was greeted by silence. A silence pregnant with pain.

I saw the water fountain we had bought for you. How you loved drinking from it! And all the small toys scattered all over the place!

I will start cooking soon, but you will not be there sitting next to me. You remember how naughty you were whenever I had some chicken on the table? Always trying to steal a piece?

I feel so bad that I was unable to do anything more to save you! When I took you to the vet yesterday afternoon, he told me that you were slipping away and that there was no real hope of survival. I hope that you still remember me next to you at the clinic, stroking your magnificent coat, as death edged closer to take you away from me. How I resisted the tears during those last few minutes! How I wanted to cry as I tried to imagine life without you!

I entered the vet's office with a cage, but I left with just the towel you were sleeping on. I still remember the expression of the man who had allowed me to enter before him due to the urgency of your condition. When he saw me leaving the office with the towel, he gave me a supporting hug.

As I walked back home, the tears just started streaming down my cheeks uncontrollably. I had not felt such a degree of pain since the day I had seen my mom's lifeless body at Boffa Hospital in 2006.

Dear Kikko, I hope that you are now happy in Heaven. I hope that you met your brother, Carlo, again and that you are now playing with each other. I hope that my mother was also there to stroke and comfort you; to tell you that we are missing you so much!!!!

I just pray that shortly after I take my last breath on Earth, you will be there to greet me. I pray that you will be purring there. And I pray that nothing will ever separate us again.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Camouflaged Dictatorships

Nowadays, it has become extremely fashionable to write and talk in favour of democracy. The Western media hardly ever stops showing interviews and pumping out articles about the importance of democracy. Dictatorships are frowned upon. And there appears to be a growing aversion towards any person or structure perceived as a symbol of authority.

Although I am in favour of societies whereby people are given the opportunity to bring about various positive changes through campaigns and other initiatives, I am quite perplexed by the general tendency to support democracy only within a strictly political framework. In other words, I cannot understand how the thousands of people who would even risk their lives to have the opportunity to say certain things seem to fail miserably at extending the notion of democracy to other settings such as the workplace.

Even though we live in the 21st century and even though many countries have adopted multi-party political systems, it is quite shocking to see how dictatorships - as a way of organising several human activities - are still extremely widespread in those countries that usually describe themselves as fully democratic. Taking the Western world as an example, if one goes beyond appearances and marketing propaganda, the typical workplace could easily be viewed as a dictatorial structure.

Before analysing the nature of the average workplace in a capitalist country, it might be a good idea to examine what usually occurs in the case of most dictatorships. In order to simplify matters and to avoid being too academic, it seems possible to say that there are usually four groups of people within a dictatorship.

The first group includes the leadership clan. The latter determines the objectives that need to be achieved by the masses and is the one that will benefit most from the current state of affairs. The leadership clan tends to shun bottom-up communication or consultation and any thought that does not fall in line with its aims is frequently perceived as a threat that must be neutralised.

The second group contains the enforcers. These are the people who will usually go to fairly extreme lengths to support as well as defend the leadership clan. These individuals will often attempt to emulate their leaders and resent any criticism. Their loyalty is not always motivated by the material rewards they receive from the leadership clan; the belief that they are important and loved by the leadership group could also forge very strong bonds even if few possessions are given to them.

The third group consists of the silent conformists. In a typical dictatorship, this would be the biggest group. It is made up of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who come to believe that any attempt to change things drastically is extremely dangerous and that it is, therefore, safer to go along with the flow and to do whatever is expected of oneself. Although many people within this group might secretly want a change or might even detest the leadership clan together with the enforcers, any criticism is normally expressed very discreetly.

The last group includes the rebels. These are the people who cannot endure various abuses and unfair pratices any longer. They are the individuals who will attempt to organise resistance movements or organisations with the hope of struggling against the dictatorship. If detected or identified, they could face terrible consequences. They are usually aware of such dangers, but they are strongly committed to their visions of a better future.

It is now time to apply the above to the typical capitalist workplace. To what extent could the latter be regarded as a dictatorship? Although it is said that an increasing number of companies is becoming less vertical when it comes to organisational structure, this does not mean that they have necessarily become more democratic. In many situations, regardless of whether there is one or more supervisors/managers, the entire workforce is there to achieve the objectives laid down by the shareholders (the leaders): to maximise profit and to minimise costs. In several large companies, the shareholders would rarely know much about their workforces and their interest in the well-being of the employees would usually be limited to productivity issues. In other words, many shareholders would often only show an interest in their employees provided that the money is rolling in. If an employee succumbs to, say, a mental illness, a shareholder would usually pay more attention to finding a quick replacement for that person rather than spending money to ensure that the employee receives the best possible treatment.

Given that the leaders are not always around, a network of enforcers is absolutely essential to ensure that the objectives are obtained and that any resistance is crushed. Within a workplace context, although the enforcers would normally be the managers or the supervisors, there is almost always a small group of individuals who believe that they are special within the organisation and who would provide information about the behaviour of any employees who might not be toeing the line.

Most employees normally play the role of silent conformists. They might grumble and complain about the company with other employees who share the same rank or who could even be a rung or two below them, but they would usually be too scared to rock the boat. These individuals tend to be terribly scared of unemployment given that the income they receive from the job might be supporting a family or going to several creditors. Their loyalty is based on fear and if a better opportunity appears, they would not be scared to move.

The rebels are typically described by the shareholders and by the enforcers as the pessimistic, negative employees. Although there are people who seem to be hell-bent on complaining against virtually everything, the rebels are not to be confused with them. In an average company, the rebel could be that employee who is tired of earning less than a person with fewer responsibilities. It could be the employee who does not want to end up working on week-ends or on public holidays as a result of the company's decision to assign the work that would ordinarily be done by three people to one person. It could be the person who is tired of the lack of respect shown by an autocratic manager.

In view of the above, it seems pretty obvious that most workplaces function as dictatorships. They are, however, camouflaged by all the fancy websites and management guru books that portray the typical capitalist workplace as a sort of college that serves to mould human beings in such ways that they become better citizens. The typical capitalist workplace might be generating more productive people, but that does not mean that more harmonious societies are being created. Sadly, in countless workplaces, the main focus is on the self - devoting more of one's life to earning more money for oneself without paying much attention to the welfare of other human beings who might not be contributing to one's wealth and happiness. In such an atmosphere, other people are regularly perceived as rivals and not as partners in creating a better world.

Many politicians might boast about how democratic their countries are, but this article clearly shows that multiple dictatorships still exist within those countries. Even though some people would say that an unhappy employee is free to move to another company, such a move is normally from one dictatorship to another.

Some people might say that contrary to political dictatorships, a typical employer would not throw someone into prison or torture them. Well, when an employee cannot really move quickly to another workplace, that person could feel imprisoned. Furthermore, the anguish felt by many employees when faced with certain conditions could be regarded as a form of torture.

When will there be a serious effort to put an end to all forms of oppression? When will there be more structures that allow human beings to live decently without having to compete against one another? When will the members of a society be regarded as equal partners rather than being divided according to whether they are employers or employees?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Few Days in Florence

Following my return to Malta from Florence (Italy) yesterday afternoon, I kept thinking about the many differences that exist between Malta and most - if not all - of the other European countries. I am not referring only to culinary or to architectural differences; I am also talking about intellectual differences.

During the few days that I spent in Florence, I noticed that there were several bookshops that remained open until around 10pm. In Malta, most shops close at 7pm. The longer opening times of the Florentine bookshops fits perfectly well with the modern reality of countless individuals who might only have some free time to go book-shopping later on in the evening, after 7pm.

The bookshops that I saw in Florence dwarfed the ones in Malta. Indeed, there was so much to see that it was quite tempting to spend an hour or more just going through numerous books! The shops even had small seats so that customers could simply relax a bit whilst leafing through the pages of a chosen book.

Two other points that struck me were the books published by Italian academics regarding current events and the books about certain controversial issues. Starting with the first point, I was amazed to see that even though the fighting in Libya erupted only a few months ago, some Italian university lecturers have already published works focusing on the ongoing conflict and on the relationship between Libya and Italy. To my knowledge, not a single book has been written lately by a Maltese academic about the relationship between Malta and Libya. I have not seen a single book published by a Maltese scholar that attempts to analyse the present situation in Libya.

Turning to the second point, I came across books that shed light on topics that are not apparently given so much attention in Malta. One of the books I saw was called Sex and the Vatican. Written by Carmelo Abbate, an investigative journalist, the book focuses on gay and heterosexual priests who have struggled with the celibacy issue. Abbate's work includes accounts of priests who have had partners and even children. Another book which captured my attention was Cio' che credo (What I believe). The latter was authored by Hans Kung, a Swiss priest and theologian who has argued in favour of contraception (such as taking the pill) and against the concept of papal infallibility.

There were also several books that focused on gender issues, local as well as international politics, and so on. When seeing the titles of these books, it was interesting to note that different points of view would be present on the same shelf. Thus, if anyone was interested in acquiring more information about the many facets pertaining to a specific topic, it seemed easier to do this in a foreign bookshop than here.

On 12th June, my wife and I attended a brief organ concert held at the church of Santa Maria de' Ricci. Halfway through the concert, it started raining very heavily outside. After around thirty minutes, the concert came to an end and the person we had seen taking care of the church appeared on the altar dressed as a priest. We decided to attend Mass there.

The Mass was very different from the ones normally witnessed in Malta. Although there were less than 30 people inside the church, Fr Roberto Tassi addressed the participants as though they were family members. He interacted with the audience during a part of the Mass (he actually asked a question to one of the people present!), he provided information about the historical context during which various Bible passages were written, and he sat on a chair close to the participants whilst delivering the homily. When the time came to exchange messages of peace, he walked to the front of the altar so that all the participants could go to shake hands with him.

Once the service was over, my wife and I went to introduce ourselves to Fr Tassi. I told him that his style was very different from the one normally witnessed in Malta. I also talked to him about the recent divorce referendum and about how many representatives of the Church in Malta had acted towards those Catholics who wanted to vote in favour of divorce legislation. Fr Tassi challenged the notion that the early Christians were against divorce; he even stated that St Paul had actually written about the possibility of divorce in the light of certain circumstances. He added that when two people no longer want to live together and when such individuals actually hate each other, it is much better for them to go their separate ways rather than continue living together in misery.

Of course, Florence was not only about books, priests, and museums. As expected, the food was delicious! And there were so many beautiful shops, selling all sorts of things. There was also a Torture Museum (showing how people were tortured in Florence during the medieval period), but we did not go in since it looked quite disturbing.

Florence is definitely a place to visit!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

When Doctors Become Mercenaries

On Monday morning, I was not feeling well. I had been sneezing a great deal on Sunday, my nose was almost constantly dripping, and the back part of my mouth looked totally red. Following the usual company procedure, I sent a message to the person who takes care of sick leave at work to let him know that I was not going to the office that day. I was not sure whether they would have sent the company doctor and I, therefore, asked my personal doctor to come over for a quick visit.

The company doctor came to visit at around 1pm (just as I was about to start having lunch). She asked me about my condition and I gave her a very short history of my symptoms. She asked me whether I had any fever; when I told her that I did not have a working thermometer, she did not bother to check herself. She then proceeded to tap her fingers against my temples and against my throat, asking whether I felt any pain. I told her that I was not feeling any pain when she did that. I was then asked to open my mouth; she looked inside and informed me that there was no pus in my throat and that whatever I had was due to a virus. I knew that if one is suffering from a viral infection, there is no need to take antibiotics, but I just wanted her to confirm that I was not suffering from a bacterial infection. I asked her whether I needed any antibiotics and I also asked her to confirm whether the Day Nurse capsules that I was taking would be sufficient to treat my illness. She asserted that no antibiotics were necessary and that the Day Nurse pills would be fine together with some warm water with salt. She also advised me to drink much more water since I was dehydrated. According to her, I was suffering from URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection).

My doctor rang the door bell around 10 minutes after she left. When he asked me about her diagnosis, he said that he still wanted to check for himself. When I told him that she did not bother to test whether I had fever, he took out his thermometer in order to check; he tried the thermometer twice and on both occasions, it was clear that I had a relatively high fever. When he looked into my mouth with his torch, he said that I HAD pus and that I was definitely suffering a bacterial infection. He prescribed, at least, one antibiotic product. When I told him about the company doctor's views, he just shook his head and said that such doctors are clearly only interested in sending people back to work as soon as possible. According to him, I was suffering from pharyngitis. He told me that if the company had any doubts about his diagnosis, they could contact him for any further details they required.

A similar story has probably occurred to many other people out there. It could be that several individuals just dismissed the matter as a disagreement between doctors or that they were too scared to challenge the company doctor's views. I have already come across the cases of two individuals who were advised to go back to work following the company doctor's visit. In both cases, the employees had also been seen by their personal doctors and had been certified as genuinely ill. As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that such cases should be taken lightly. Every medical doctor is trained to safeguard the patient's welfare; when a company's interests become more important than the patient's health, there is something seriously wrong.

I believe that whenever a company sends a doctor to check on someone's fitness to work, there is a clear conflict of interest. Such doctors are not being paid by the companies to treat the sick employees, but to send them back to work as soon as possible. If a company doctor allows various employees to spend many days recovering at home, it is very likely that the company director/s will suspect that the doctor is being too generous with the employees.

Why is the government not taking any action to prevent such unethical behaviour? It is my understanding that the government should only support the praiseworthy objectives of the medical profession. It should never allow medical doctors to become mercenaries.

If you have also experienced or witnessed a similar story, please share your observations on this blog...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A Few Thoughts about Money

Money has not always existed. There must have been a time when human beings that needed something could either obtain it on their own or ask another person/group of people to help them acquire it without having to think in terms of a price to be paid.

Times changed. Societies were formed. Money was invented. Various objects and services could no longer be acquired for free; they had to be purchased.

Nowadays, very few things that are necessary to live comfortably can be given or obtained freely. Food, clothes, a decent roof over one's head, education...several of these have to be bought. And if one does not have any money to acquire these things, that is where some very serious hardship could be expected.

There is no denying the fact that in order to live well, money is indispensable. And, of course, the more money one has, the more possible it becomes to enjoy many of the pleasurable things that life has to offer. Individuals who are millionaires can roam the world and divide their time in the many properties to their names whereas the millions of human beings who earn little more than a minimum wage are frequently cautioned to avoid thinking about certain pleasures since they must "live within their means". For the people who are earning little more than a minimum wage and who have absolutely no external support, what exactly does "living within their means" mean?

I have sometimes asked this question to people earning far more than me. Their answers were along the lines of "Well, if you are not earning a great deal of money, it is irresponsible to think about travelling, eating out, going to the cinema, buying good clothes, etc." Such thinking suggests that all those people who are barely earning enough to survive should - in spite of spending the same amount of time at work as several other individuals who are earning much more money - just focus on shutting themselves up at home and spend the little money they have on pure survival. And let's not fool ourselves here...with the prices of many essential items going up, it is sometimes very difficult to imagine how a monthly salary of, say, EUR 650 could be sufficient to even cover all the necessities that could crop up during a given month!

Nowadays, I frequently ask myself: why have so many societies embraced systems whereby various things and services that could be provided freely must be acquired following payment of a sum of money? Why am I obliged to spend money in order to nourish myself? Why am I obliged to spend money to have a decent roof over my head? Why must I spend money to buy enough clothes to keep me warm in winter?

When I talk about the sometimes shocking financial inequalities between several individuals, I am regularly told that the people who are extremely rich must have done something good to possess such wealth; that they must have worked very hard for the money. To me, this is quite debatable. There are countless individuals who are incredibly wealthy simply because they were born in very rich families. Other extremely rich people manage to build an empire for themselves by using the labour of other human beings to generate the wealth, but then keep most of the proceeds to themselves. Of course, there are also many people who are incredibly wealthy as a result of engaging in several criminal activities such as drug trafficking.

When talking about the huge gaps between salaries, I am often told that the market is the master of such matters. To give a simple example, waiters tend to be far less paid than, say, medical doctors because the labour market has a far greater supply of waiters than of doctors and waiters are, therefore, less "valuable" than doctors. Thus, if a typical waiter would like to live an average medical doctor's lifestyle, they would probably need to think about how they could sustain themselves for several years until they are able to graduate as a doctor. But what if someone really likes being a waiter and has no interest in medicine? Must the waiter be constrained to spend the rest of their life deprived of various comforts simply because the market rules that waiters should not be paid as much as people working in many other professions? To me, this type of unquestioning worship of the market is terribly disturbing.

I believe that we should try to imagine - even if only for a few minutes - a world without money. A world where human beings can be happy without needing to spend a penny to achieve that happiness. A world where people are not valued according to how much profit they could generate, but where they are regarded as equally deserving of the many comforts that life has to offer. What is so wrong with such a world? Why do so many people keep putting up one obstacle after another to prevent such a dream from coming true?

Perhaps we should remember that the world and all its resources once belonged to the entire human species. Huge tracts of land never had anyone's name written on them. When apples and oranges grew on thousands of trees, they never had any price tags stuck to them. Countless things were available to all and they were free.