People you meet on the Road V: The Pelican King

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Over the winter of 2015, after having spent a wonderful and eventful Summer in Turkey, I decided to return to a small town called “Fethiye” for Christmas Holidays. I had little else to do, and I’d been hired by a friend to edit a book of his. The small port town was thus the perfect getaway now that the prices had fallen and the tourists had left for warmer places.

Truth be told, most of the articles I published in 2016 came from this month of work. The sudden and noticeable drop in activity and frequency of published articles midyear happened once I ran out of them, and actually had to get my ass into gear. Although I quite enjoy the art and craft of writing, I often just as much enjoy pretending I’m going to write and watching Youtube videos instead.

Be that as it may, I have very fond memories of this month as a quasi-hermit and author. Despite the terrible weather, the fabulous scenery was still there, and there wasn’t a foreigner in sight. Hence the few remaining shops, restaurants and hostels open were extremely generous to any lost soul that happened to end up over there. Among them there was a cafe by the boardwalk called “Pelikan Cafe,” and contrary to expectations, its name delivered!

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Meditations on Toubkal Mountain, the highest point in North Africa

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Much remains the same when you grow up, many of the childlike dreams, hopes and aspirations still hold true. Perhaps we may coat them with a veneer of respectability or adulthood, but at their core, they still remain much the same. The main thing that changes though is how we seek to satisfy those drives.

Had you talked to my thirteen year old self and told him that one day, a decade later, I would decide to climb during the winter the highest mountain of North Africa on a whim, I would’ve likely called you mad. I still remember when, on a nature walk that we did on a school trip, my teacher essentially had to push my back then morbidly obese self the whole way. As otherwise, I would’ve never managed to do so.

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Why I’ve Grown more Conservative with Age

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I look at myself in the mirror, I see slight bags underneath my eyes, and on my chest and beard I see a gray hair or two. I’m not an old man, I just turned twenty-three, but much has changed since I first started having political thoughts.

There was a time where I believed that I alone could change the world – I had a messiah complex, to put it mildly. There seemed to be so much suffering in society, yet little seemed to be done about it. What was needed was a revolution to push aside our archaic notions on where our civilization was heading. I spent many hours, thinking and genuinely believing that the time of action was around the corner.

Whilst never a communist, I harboured some affinity to the ideals. I believed that the main reasons such systems had never worked, was because it was always presupposed that people would work out of the goodness in their heart. Technology, I decided, was the key to all this, and if only our society could develop enough of it, we could reach a state of utopia. People would not have to work, and all would be well.

Now, I do still think that automation has the capacity for a society of such wealth and excellence, that none before it could compare. Yet, I’ve grown more humble over time. I have my doubts that I, or for that matter anyone, could artificially design such a society. Some of the most horrible crimes in world history have been made in the name of good intentions, and designing a supposedly better society: from the Maoist “Great Leap Forward”, which killed millions through starvation and scarcity; the Nazis wanting to rid society of what they deemed the dregs of humanity; or the acts of Gavrilo Princep wanting to rid the world of what he believed to be an oppressive system with the Habsburgs in the Balkans, which had WWI as an aftermath, just to name a few.

I think science’s early success in understanding mathematics, physics and the like has given us plenty of arrogance to go along with it. The Enlightenment had the detrimental effect of making us believe that everything was computable, and immediately understandable. This is fine and doable in contained systems where you can isolate the forces, and understand how they behave in relation to each other. It’s a different tale altogether when you’re trying to understand systems that aggregate on the input of each other, and even worse, may react to the information that has been computed so far.

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The Unconscious Horror – Learning to follow your passions and be free

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Estimated Time: 4 Minutes

As a homo sapiens, we’re part of various interlocking systems that are barely understandable to our limited minds. Even if we fail to see it, we’re a replaceable cog in a vast unconscious, unfathomably complex machine. A select few may be lucky enough to hear and acknowledge the constant low whirring of the engine, but none of them really know its true purpose or end goal.

Our biology has primed us to be likely to do and make us believe in certain things – to follow our evolutionary imperative. We’re a machine whose purpose seems be to make copies of itself to be passed on to the next generation. In the meantime, we’ve allied with other such machines to take over the planet, and we have decided that the best way to do so is by sharing certain behavioural patterns that are designed for stability and social welfare.

The interesting thing is that much like evolution, society is not particularly concerned with the wellbeing of its individual components – it’s an unconscious mechanism that seeks to perpetuate itself at all possible costs. It doesn’t matter whether you’re happy or sad, as long as the system evolves and manages to survive and perpetuate itself to the next generation. It’s not to say that society won’t congratulate you for following the rules, it’s just that looking at it objectively the rewards hardly seem to be worth the cost. To quote Napoleon “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”

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Children of an Empire – or why immigration is done wrong

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241 – that is a number that at present terrifies me. It’s the number of days that I have on my student visa at the time of writing this article. When the timer runs out, I’ll be kicked out of the UK. For the last 3 years I’ve been happily living in Europe. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to do so, and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s the first time in my life where I feel like I belong somewhere.

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Can’t we all just get along? – An open letter to both sexes

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Estimated Time: 4 minutes

Dear Men and Women,

I cannot help but feel that over the last few years there’s been a progressive escalation of hatred to the opposite gender. On the one hand, we have the “feminazis,” who see any masculine trait as an affront to their personal wellbeing. On the other hand, we have the “manosphere,” which often preaches that all women are blood sucking harpies who’ll stab you in the heart if you ever take your eye off them. Caught in the crossfire of this drama, we have the average Joe and Jane.

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“Is it safe to come out? I took for cover once I heard someone talk about the patriarchy in the comment section”

Neither Jane or Joe genuinely sees the opposite gender as an enemy to be fought. Yet the problem is that our own gendered extremists are lashing out at the other side, which creates reactionary extremists, which will create even more extremists of the opposite gender, and it becomes a negative feedback loop. Let’s stop this before it gets out of hand.

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People you meet on the Road III: Getting Chased by criminals

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Estimated Time: 4 Minutes

Some are born adventurous, some seek adventure, and others have adventure thrust upon them. I seem to be in the last category, as odd stories seem to follow me wherever I go. This time around, I was thrust into the adventure when I met a man on a boat whilst crossing the Bosporus straits. I had made my way to Istanbul after a month of backpacking through Turkey. I’d paraglided in the mountains, I’d skinny dipped in the Mediterranean, seen the ancient cities of yore, and seen a man get shot.

I was in dire need for something slightly less adventurous and thus I decided to take an afternoon cruise in Istanbul to see the historical sights. I wanted to sail across the sea where the Byzantines had laid a thick, iron chain to blockade enemy attackers from sailing into the ports. I also wanted to see the mountains besides it, where Sultan Mehmet II had hilariously just decided to carry the ships over to avoid the chain and naval blockade. This resulted in the conquest of Byzantium, after which the Ottomans left their indelible mark in the surrounding countryside over the following centuries.

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