I think most of us can remember getting caught in a lie or a deed that got us into trouble. The brain worked feverishly to come up with a suitable excuse while the parent was simply shaking their head in disbelief.

I imagine many slave owners knew in their bones that it was wrong but searched for excuses for their enslavement of people. If we can only come up with reasons why the enslaved is inferior to the enslaver… then we might be able to continue with this business. See scientific racism (Wikipedia).

If I remember history correctly, slavery existed for millennia but, until a few centuries ago, people never came up with the excuse of the slave being inferior — slaves were simply the soldiers and people who had lost the war and therefore became the slaves of the victors.

These days we hear politicians claiming that migrants and immigrants are inferior people, or even criminals. Throughout history animals and humans have migrated. The reasons were droughts or disagreements or simply the search for a different life. Foragers rarely fought and it was more likely that groups would split up and go their different ways. One such splinter group may have led the exodus out of Africa. So, in essence every non African is a migrant.

Many Silicon Valley hotshots own property in New Zealand – Business Insider, Bloomberg, The Guardian. People buy property in coutries to obtain a golden visa. How is that morally superior to a family needing to leave a drought zone, a war zone, or a zone that has no opportunities for their children? And then there is climate change. Shouldn’t the industrial nations, who contributed more to causing climate change, help people displaced by climate change?

I wonder whether, just a few decades from now, history will view the issues surrounding immigrants today as similar to how slavery was once seen. Is migration the new slavery? I was reminded of a sentence I read in the excellent book Grand Hotel Europe, by Ilya Leonard Pfeijffer:

Those who believe they are suffering tend to blame people who are suffering even more. The weak are generally gunning for the even weaker.

Those are two deeply troubling sentences. I have reread them many times and can’t claim that they are wrong.


Friday 29 July 2022 – The Monocle Minute | Monocle:

This week, Portugal’s government moved to relax visa restrictions for fellow Lusophone countries, while Germany is reforming its immigration system to ease its worker shortage. Japan, however, continues to suffer from an ageing yet historically immigration-averse population.

Without immigration, we’re all heading in Japan’s direction. UK census data shows that there are now more people aged 65 and over in England and Wales than children under the age of 15. Despite this, the contenders to be the UK’s next prime minister seem resolutely anti-immigration, echoing the political debate that has been seen in both France and the US in recent years. They should instead be making a positive case for the more considered and systematic immigration policy that’s clearly needed. Wealthy nations face a stark choice. Following the lead of Portugal and Germany by becoming more hospitable to foreigners would be a good place to start.

I love that word Lusophone, because it sounds like a musical instrument, some kind of large horn perhaps.

Here is a paragraph from the book “Grand Hotel Europa” by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer

Those who believe they are suffering tend to blame people who are suffering even more. The weak are generally gunning for the even weaker. And the fact that there are hardly any boat refugees or other African immigrants in Venice may not form an impediment to identifying them as the source of all evil.


Separatism arises from a nostalgia for better times which may or may not have actually existed. It’s tempting to think that the solution to today’s problems might be to turn back the clock to a time when those problems didn’t yet exist. This is the lure of right-wing populism, which in essence is nostalgic. Discontent and fears are roused, stoked up and magnified, and then an idyllic, idealized past is presented as the solution. We need to close our borders again, bring back our quaint old currency, let church bells ring and shut down mosques, restore military service to its former glory, sing the national anthem and fetch our former decency from the attic and polish it until it is a shining beacon in the dark night.

When I hear people talk about the good old days, and how simple things used to be, I think they don’t actually mean a certain period of time but a particular stage in their own life. The life of a five year old is indeed simple. Your parents tell you what to do and they love you, feed you, give you shelter – if things go well for you. As we grow up, however, things should change, in fact they need to change, because increasing consciousness leads to increasing complexity. Now the simple lines, that were once drawn with a sharpie, gain modulation, become pencil drawings that grow bolder here and finer there, because graphite pencils have 16 degrees of hardness. Eventually color is added, for even more variation and complexity. When people say that they want to return to a simple life I think they really mean that they want to go back to being a child.


In a narrow cobblestone alley a few sunflowers have sprung up. Were they planted or did they surprise? In any case, they seem well cared for. The flowers are tied to bamboo poles that hold them up. The ground appears to be watered. An older person might be the caretaker of these flowers, judging by the handrail that was installed to help them negotiate the three steps into the house. It’s a simple bathroom handrail, like the ones I installed in my house, when my dad lived there. The handrail is simple and artless, in a beautiful way, making me imagine that an engineer lives here. If the sunflowers were volunteers, they could not have picked a better spot. They look perfect in front of the yellow house. Or perhaps the engineer has a partner who wanted to obscure the practical handrail by planting sunflower seeds and watering them. The gleam of the chromed handrail won’t be quite as obvious if sunflowers grow here, they might have thought.

Terrace (Fake History)

We want a terrace. Sure, don’t we all want a terrace! Yeah, but how about we build one between our two houses? That’s a pretty good idea. Will it have access from both houses? Nope, only from our house. Then how do I use the terrace? You basically don’t, but we could add stairs to the terrace that you could sometimes use. Great, so I can enjoy the view from the terrace as well. Can we have dinner on the terrace? Well, here is the thing. I am willing to add the stairs, but I will also add a gate… so you won’t be able to go to the terrace any time you want. You want that I ask you every time I want to use the terrace. Yeah, I do. It really doesn’t sound like a great deal for me. You get a terrace and what do we get? Well, how about I pay you to paint the underpass underneath the terrace? You can paint it any way you want. You are not going to tell me what to do? No. Paint anything you like. You are paying for the building of the terrace and you will pay me to paint it. No, only underneath the terrace. But there you can paint anything you like. Let me think about this.

If I was Da Vinci’s Friend

Leonardo sent one of his assistants over to invite me to his workshop this afternoon. I was torn about going. It is always exciting, electrifying even, to see what he is working on, but it is also soul-destroying. I mean, he makes everyone else look positively lazy and stupid. Being around Leo can be a real bummer. In the excitement about his next great idea he tends to forget that while he has a hundred ideas, mere mortals are lucky to have one.
Last time I went to see him I returned home and didn’t get out of bed for three days. Depressing. And yet, I feel compelled to go. What will it be? I am so curious! Is it a painting, a sculpture, a war machine, a flying machine, or the design for a bridge? Damn you, Leo.

PS: Not sure where this came from. I was walking somewhere and those words popped into my head.

PPS: Proposed bridge would have been the world’s longest at the time; new analysis shows it would have worked.


(short story around the word saffron)

After walking around and marveling at the Alhambra for the entire morning they had moved on. He really wanted to stay and just sit and experience the building, but his friends had seen all they wanted to see and urged him to leave. He decided he would come back by himself the next morning, very early, before they had to move on, because he knew that a building like this required time to be truly experienced and wouldn’t show itself right away… a special building that contains intention needs the sun to arc in the sky, which allows the light to reveal the details, and lets the shadows move around to give it life. And this building had a lot of depth and intention. He would come back and see, tomorrow.

From the Alhambra they had aimlessly walked through backstreets of Granada until he noticed a small guitar shop at the end of a cobblestone road. His friends were hungry and didn’t want to stop, so he urged them to find a restaurant nearby and to wait for him there.

After they had left and gone around a corner he opened the door, which triggered a little bell that rang. After entering the little shop he looked around and saw a few guitars hanging against the wall. Nobody came out to greet him, so after a while he gently took a guitar from the wall, sat down on a wooden chair and tuned it. He began to play, enjoying the strings in his hands, the scent of wood, the familiarity of holding a guitar. He hadn’t played in a couple of weeks, since starting this journey, but the music seemed to come out of his hands anyway… as if it had been waiting patiently for this moment.

He took a look at the label inside the guitar. It wasn’t a great guitar by any means, but it was a guitar and he was glad he had the chance to play a little.

A man came through the door that probably lead to the workshop. The man looked a little unkempt, in a distracted professor manner, and wore a grey lab coat. He said something in rapid Spanish. When it became obvious that he wasn’t understood, he nodded, then said: “Those guitars are for tourists, not for someone like you. Let me show you one of my real guitars.”

The man turned around and was gone for a couple of minutes. When he returned he brought a guitar he held with obvious pride. The top was a saffron color, with simple black inlays around the sound hole.

He nodded and smiled and gently took the instrument from the hands of its maker. Then he sat down with it.