Making Environments Hostile

A few days ago I got my certificate for Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) from the Carabinieri in Livorno. The Carabinieri are the Italian counterpart of the Gendarmerie, or Guardia Civil – the police force that depends from the Ministry of Defense. The training was given by the First Paratrooper Regiment (“Tuscania”), who engage in difficult operations abroad, like protecting VIPs in enemy territory or liberating hostages. They are strong, self-confident, good-looking and easy-going Italians, the real stuff, machos beyond posturing. Continue reading

Security through integration, not isolation

La Taverna du Liban Kabul

Afghan security in front of bombed restaurant in Kabul. Photo by Johannes Eisele for AFP/Getty Images

The news of the bombing of La Taverna du Liban, a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, reached me while I was following a pre-deployment course for a EU mission in Libya. I think I knew Kamal, the owner of the restaurant, who died in the assault; if it was the same man who set up the restaurant somewhere in 2004-5 (and it seems so from this personal account), he was a hearty, generous man and I regret his death, especially for his children. Continue reading

So-called ‘terrorists’ finally receive a democratic platform – as an art project

The setting for the New World Summit in Berlin’s Sophiensaele. The flags are all of organizations on the ‘designated terrorist lists’. Showing one of them might be a crime, but as a whole they qualify as an artwork. All photos courtesy of Jonas Staal and his team

I chaired a summit and helped curate a project designed by the Dutch artist Jonas Staal in Berlin on 4 and 5 May, as part of the Berlin Biennial. Continue reading

The fear of Big Brother

The fear of Big Brother is justified as long as political power sits on top of us and has the means to lock us into a subordinate relationship of control. In the 1920s and 30s we saw how dictatorial regimes came into power in democracies through elections, so the sole fact that a political system is democratic is not sufficient to guarantee that civil liberties will be protected. In theory the Netherlands or any other democratic country could become a dictatorship after the next elections (and step out of the European Union and other binding international agreements if necessary). Continue reading