bottleneck analysis

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Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Age of Reason

Giarre, Italy

What to do when lazy afternoons develop into pensive and long hours? Today I decided to “read away”. There might be a common expression in English that describes it, but I made up “to read away” as in reading something outside either studying or procrastinating. It’s the well-deserved time one should allocate to the activity of reading. Just like running, working out, eating or sleeping, reading is necessary.

I wanted to avoid myself and my thought of what’s to be done in many of my life’s facets… and here I fall again. Reading Jean-Paul Sartre could have lead to this. I knew it, but I took the risk. While my eyes were jumping on the slightly depressing environment JPS describes in his book “The Age of Reason” (1947), I stumbled upon a sentence that very well describes myself and my current feelings. I should set the scene before quoting it: the sentence is directed from a French lawyer to his brother, Mathieu, who is in trouble. Mathieu praises freedom. Living free makes life worthwile to him. The trouble he is caught in renders him “not free”. The solutions that the others (another dear theme for JPS) offer is to finally surrender to living “not free” like everybody else. My life doesn’t fit in the above description, fortunately. But here are the words that made me jump up from bed with the need to type my thoughts:

… your life is an incessant compromise between an ultimately slight inclination towards revolt and anarchy and your deeper impulses that direct you towards order, moral health, and I might almost say routine. The result is that you are still, at your age, an irresponsible student…

Reading these lines had me realize that this is the twist that our society makes appetible. In a “free country” you can say anything you want, therefore, there’s no need for a struggle for free speech. This doesn’t mean that saying things makes them happen. The status quo remains immutable, but the fact that one can say “it’s unjust” makes us free to say so, therefore it all falls in the comfortable side of our conscience.

As I write these lines, I recall what day is today. Nineteen years ago, the news didn’t allow for the usual lunch at home and I remember debris and ashes being shown on the TV in the kitchen. Silverware stopped moving as the reporters gave us more details on the event. During the peak of the brutal season, the mafia had killed another man. A special man, a judge, a man of the state. Paolo Borsellino, with whom I share all the letters in first and last name, had been and was going to be a hero for us, the non-mafia society.

As of today, thanks to my childhood experiences like the one that is remembered today and thanks to how I developed my vision of the world in general, I should fight for equality and the end of injustices every day. But I don’t do it. Routine comes very handy sometimes. I can’t start a revolution today, because tomorrow I’ll have a book delivered in the mail (or “I should shave first”…)

I wonder what it takes to be courageous enough to be useful to the world. It’s not oneself’s freedom that is worth defending. It’s a struggle for giving everybody a chance to live better and peacefully. Hopefully somebody will send me a message on Facebook about it when it starts. Because now I have to go eat dinner.

Thank you Paolo Borsellino, because you showed us the way to be useful.


Exotic in Your Mouth

Marina di Ragusa (Italy)

As I came to the United States in 2009, I realized what a true multi-cultural environment should really be: natural.

My life has been traveling degrees of heterogeneity: my first 12 years just in Sicily, 2+2 years just below Northern Italy with Italian students from all over the boot, experiences in Spain, Russia… So I went from being the outlier among 100% Christian Catholic, clean-floor-maniac, fashion addicted Sicilians to live in more and more diverse communities, where I finally stood out just by being funny, or competent, or by hugging too much.

It was then that I arrived in the U.S., where racial profiling and thrust for classification are perceived everywhere. I almost needed a children’s book and doodles to understand why Affirmative Action was at all important in 2009 (or 2011, for that matter). And there I am, the melting-pot, the land of plenty and freedom still produces noises such as “that stingy Jew”, “the cute little Asian woman”, all of which border with “is he gay or European” and “once you go black, you never go back”, in my opinion. Stereotypes.

A “normal” society should be based on equality. We are all grown-ups that understand that we are a biologic coincidence, and that biology doesn’t care of anyone’s bank account or family standard. Democracies allegedly praise equality, though placing a heavy weight on the differences within their societies. Be it minorities, women, or poor people, “normal” societies do not treat them as well as the others. By building a sense of bizarreness within the enclosed community, our countries teach us that there is something odd, exotic; if not inside the borders, there will always be outlandish kinds somewhere.

“Exotic” is one of the words I despise the most. A child of the Nineteenth century, it condensates racism, superiority, snobbism, and pleasure for ignorance. This is not to say that those of you who use the word intend to be offensive or derogatory. I stopped using it some years ago. It left a sour flavor on my dry tongue, after pronouncing it. A lot of people have been bored to death by me trying to have a conversation about it. Words are important and I tend to choose them wisely (therefore I talk and write slowly). “Exotic” is like the hourglass or the chandelier: aristocratic and outdated. However, it serves the purpose of making cute, or despicable, or barbarian (another of those words…) what in reality is right, wrong, or simply natural.

Quitting the use of exotic should teach us the reverse, i.e. to realize that differences are inherent in human societies. And that there is no “exotic” way to cook a meal, to choose a dress, or to love somebody. It’s all natural, because it comes with humankind. Artificial and made-up are social constraints and customs. Our eyes betray us. Probably a color-blind (gender-blind, class-blind) society will never exist unless we carve our eyebulbs out. Or we can begin cleaning up our dictionary from such words. Words are made-up too, therefore we can craft them to accompany us towards a natural society, free of inequalities.

The Long Summer

Giarre (Italy, home)

This will be a personal post. Yes, I’m just procrastinating everything else I’m supposed to write to ramble on an impromptu blog post instead. This crazy long summer has prevented me from sitting down and think as much as I want. May’s low-key start gave me the impression I could use some of my free time to keep a blog and have it up-to-date. Then I got busier and busier and it’s almost been a month since my last post.

However, much has been accomplished. My 70 days in the U.S. gave me any job-hunting, job-finding, job-declining experiences and many good friendly hugs. I just got back into the oven..ehm.. Sicily, without jetlag (or luggage) and I feel like using my time to write as much as I can, both to fulfill my promises and duties, and to channel my need to keep in touch with the other side of the Atlantic.

The newest things to keep an eye on from me are several: I’ll be co-writing a big paper on Bulgaria and its energy issues (nuclear, dependency on Russia…); next week, the first of 6 contribution to an Italian geopolitics journal will be published (on Poland, Bulgaria, and their shale gas game); in a week or two, I’ll write a book review for a very interesting volume that came out last month that collects a series of chapters by some among the top experts on Russian-EU-FSU foreign and energy policy experts (which is basically the same topic as my thesis).

Uh, my thesis, I forgot to mention. My (very serious) face is on the back cover of a book now. You can find it online through a bunch of book dealers like Amazon, MoreBooks… Please, if you’re still a student, I would very much appreciate your lobbying at your local library for their purchase of the book as it might be of interest for many students approaching the topic of energy and foreign policy especially in the Former Soviet Union. Or just ask the publisher for an electronic (free) review copy.

Moreover, I still have to start off another (more professional) blog on energy and politics, which is fully set up, fortunately. And, now that I know how to, I will be playing with mapping and geographic softwares in order to make all of the above more appealing for the thirsty-of-georeference eyes. And that’s all, not.