December 16, 2016

Some thoughts on where we are today…

The world as it presents itself today – December 16th 2016 – is one of many contradictions. The end of the Cold War in the 90s symbolized hope for world peace and a harmonized globalization process. 9/11 triggered polarization and grave distrust in world politics, even among recent allies. The Arab spring and everything else leading up to the Syrian conflict and beyond merely intensified those divergent positions that so many of our international players adhered to.

These global events in turn had direct implications on the internal affairs of individual countries. The radicalization of national politics worldwide is a fact. Fringe parties and movements, both left and right, are making more progress on domestic stages than ever before. In some countries they now have unquestionable influence on policy. In the United Kingdom we had the successful Brexit referendum, in the United States we now have Donald Trump as the President elect.

For the neutral bystander and enthusiast of international politics this would present itself as quite the spectacle. The only problem is that today, at one point, everybody will be affected in one way or the other by what is happening anywhere on earth. Because this world is globalized, there is no safe haven. There is no longer such a thing as a neutral bystander. Perhaps there now comes a time for everyone with any vestige of independent thought, to finally stand up for what he or she believes in.

Policy makers have always implemented unpopular and restrictive legislation under the guise of a “legitimate” reason. If there is none, they will be sure to come up with one. The current Polish example is a good case in point.

For over a year now the ruling party in Poland is the Law and Justice Party. It is an interesting phenomenon, as the party combines both right and left wing ideological components. Conservative in respect to morality and ethics, socialist in terms of welfare policies. An odd entity indeed. This adaptive quality has allowed them to swallow whole the entire leftist electorate. Consequently we have no typical socialist party in the Polish Parliament. The only real opposition is composed of free-market liberals.

Getting back to the topic however, in just over a year the Law and Justice Party has managed to secure: the Presidency, the majority in parliament, the entire executive branch of government, control of the state media, and just now recently – the constitutional court (we are on the verge of grave changes). The constitutionally secured check and balances which have previously discouraged any political party to implement any radical shifts in policies are now all gone. In 2017 it’s potentially complete free fall. They will now have complete power in this country.

Of course, it is too early to predict how far they will go to implement their policies. There are however, a few indications that suggest that they will not stray away from their set course: purges in the state media, the refusal to publish judgements of the Constitutional Court, prepared tax raises, reintroducing the duty to register where you live, unsuccessful (so far) attempts to further restrict abortion laws, prosecution of politicians and public servants effectively just because they were members of the opposition party (see the Amber Gold parliamentary commission, or attempts to trial Donald Tusk in the State Tribunal)…

All this paints a very bleak picture for Poland. What may worry most is the potential to interfere into the personal freedoms of Polish citizens. Already now, heightened online and offline surveillance is a fact. When you have everything in your grasp, then the only way to keep it that way is to find some common enemy that will siphon all the frustration and anger of your electorate. So at what point will people be singled out and declared enemies of the state, traitors? Perhaps the fictional “Syrian refugee” (of which there are merely dozens in Poland) will become the target, the enemy. Or the non-existing left. The Germans, the Jews, the Russians or course. Or the powerful gay lobby. Or the immoral liberals… This appears to be just a question of time.

Some would say that this is merely a Polish experience. I say otherwise. This is an evident global political paradigm shift. Global cataclysms (e.g. Middle Eastern and North African refugee crisis) have direct implications on what is happening in Europe and beyond. The strength of the Law and Justice Party stems from peoples worries and fear of what the future holds. People cling to what they deem is certain, predictable. There is no search for new, more inventive coping mechanisms.

The same is happening in Sweden with the radicalization of certain elements in the Social Democratic Party or, more notably, the the rise of the right wing Sweden Democrats. In France you have Marine Le Pen with Front National, in the UK the Conservative Party all of a sudden has attuned itself with UKIP, in Greece you have the leftist Syriza… The list goes on and on. These movements, are now encouraged to act more than ever before, and begin to take over countries one by one.

Add to this the fact that countries like Russia and China are emboldened by the lack of global leadership (previously represented by the US) and you begin to realize that some shift in world politics is about to happen. Russia’s successful campaign in the Middle East is unquestionable. China’s expansion of forward bases in the Pacific is a fact.

Yes, these are interesting times…

May 4, 2014

Ukraine – An analysis – Part II

Since March 19th 2014, when I wrote my previous post, we witnessed some very interesting geo-political developments – especially pertaining to Ukraine.

Crimea was, de facto, overrun by Russian forces (disguised as so called “local self-organized militia”), then annexed by the Russian Federation. Civil unrest is wreaking havoc in the eastern parts of Ukraine. Blood has been spilt and a peaceful end scenario is unlikely to come to fulfilment.

Vladimir Putin has played this game well. The immediate geopolitical effects indicate meticulous planning and preparation. In the short-term Russia is bound to experience and at this moment certainly is experiencing pejorative consequences as a result of its involvement – this may be observed through the implementation of personal and/or economic sanctions by certain players in the Americas and EU as well as through the generally applied ostracism on the international stage and capital markets. In the long run however it’s a win: the annexation of Crimea means there is effective territorial gain, Russia has asserted its role on the Black Sea by securing the Port of Sevastopol and then there is the prospect of continuing control over what happens within that what Russia considers its “sphere of influence”.

In the featured image to this post we see the map of Ukraine as of May 5th 2014. Even Google Maps seems to acknowledge the new reality in respect to Crimea. This may not necessarily be the end to the territorial shifts. Unrest in the East ranging from Kharkiv, to Luhansk to even Odessa are a fact. Government building are taken over by rioting protesters, partisan units composed of ethnic Russians are formed and then there are casualties. The current Ukrainian government has great difficulty to exert control over these areas. A projection as to development of this crisis is difficult to foresee.

Yet it goes without saying that any conflict resolution will not be swift. We are yet to expect a reaction (if any) by the Western players. I will be monitoring these events with great interest, so you can expect more input on the subject matter in the coming months.

March 19, 2014

Ukraine – An analysis – Part I

These last months we have witnessed a series of dramatic events on the world stage. What clearly stands out is the situation in Ukraine, which is far from resolved to this day. In fact, various commentators fear an escalation – one leading to the disintegration of the state as such.

The events leading up to the annexation of Crimea were symptomatic of the obvious dissonance between the will of one part of the Ukrainian society in relation to the rest. For many reasons, be it historical, cultural or strictly political in nature it wouldn’t be a valid argument to presume that the people living in the Ukraine represent a coherent and mutually affiliated society. On the contrary, we have the ethnically Ukrainian West which identifies itself to a more considerable extent with Western European culture, and then we have the East – where a larger part of the inhabitants are ethnically Russian and have a closer relationship with what today constitutes the Russian Federation.

The present borders of Ukraine were effectively determined after World War II. Historically, the territories that now constitute an integral part of Ukraine have predominantly, over the past centuries, shifted between the following local state actors: the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland and the USSR.

Crimea, the recent bone of contention for example has a very week connection to the Ukrainian state – in fact it became part of Ukraine as recently as 1954 when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. As long as the USSR existed this territorial shift meant nothing, or very close to nothing… With the disintegration of the USSR however a sense of loss became apparent among many Russians. Therefore – it did not come as much of a surprise when these negative emotions were resuscitated by one of the players.

As much as we can today clearly identify a Ukrainian national identity – so it is also true that any good example of a more permanent experience of Ukrainian statehood cannot be offered.

Only with the aforementioned context in mind can we delve deeper into the root cause of the present conflict.

It all actually began with now former President Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a political association and free trade pact with the European Union back in November. This was a clear signal to the West that Ukraine would be seeking closer association with Moscow. For many, especially in West Ukraine this was an unfortunate policy reversal. In due time people started gathering at the Independence Square in Kiev to protest against what just happened.

Many still reminiscened the success of the so-called Orange Revolution back in 2004 when peaceful protests led to the victory of pro-West political circles led by Viktor Yuschenko. Nobody, I presume, believed that a reignited peaceful protest would lead to the coming bloodshed, the butchery during the February 2014 Euromaidan clashes in Kiev.

For weeks the global community witnessed some horrid scenes. In this information age news travels fast, and the advancement in communication devices enables for more graphic reporting than was ever possible before. The cruelty of a State apparatus in a state of desperation was evident. All in all the cost of this revolution amounted to around a 100 human lives.

In the meantime diplomatic pressure from the West led to the signing of an agreement between the opposition and President Yanukovych. Though the agreement was shortlived, it marked Yanukovych´s rather quick demise and subsequent escape to Moscow…

And so yet again the pro-western opposition took over the reins of power in Ukraine. Or so it would seem at first glance.

February 1, 2014

On “change” for lawyers

That realization that the legal sector worldwide is changing dramatically shouldn’t really strike us a surprise – and yet even now many fellow lawyers refuse to accept this state of affairs…

Were we to go back in time just a couple years, becoming a lawyer meant for many: job security and a guaranteed high payroll after graduation. Today the prospects are not so optimistic. In fact, for the great majority of lawyers, the coming 5 years will mark the beginning of the end to their profession as they know it…

I am a lawyer myself, so in theory at least I should feel worried… But then I am not – for I am convinced that with the right business concept, a law firm may yet prosper. For this to happen however, one has to adapt to the new circumstances. The first step in doing this is to understand what we are facing, what we have now and what is to be expected.

The primary reason for this drastic change of circumstances is blatantly obvious, or at least should be – “technological advancement”. The affect is especially visible with the exponential use of information technology, not as much by lawyers themselves, but their potential clients. Web-based legal services are continually on the rise, so is the development of apps. This is indeed a true revolution in a sector that is notorious for its sceptical approach to anything new (with the exception of new laws perhaps).

Which leads us to discuss the secondary reason – the complete and utter lack of will on the part of legal professionals to adjust to this newly emerging reality. As I write this, I cannot help but feel sorry for all these ladies and gentlemen of the trade. It seems simply sad when I see people from my generation (or younger) adopt the mentality of their predecessors. Sheep.

They study the law (5 years) at University, proceed on to apprenticeship (3 years), get their title (advocate/legal counsel etc.) and they think to themselves: “mission accomplished”. Well, that’s where they are wrong. In Poland, prior to 2006 that may have been the case, but since then universities in the country have accepted more law student than ever before. Consequently, the number of lawyers has risen since then by about a third. Competition is fierce, although only among the weak. The local legal professionals associations have successfully hampered the emergence any competition to the old guard within the trade through the introduction of so called “ethical codes” which prohibit lawyers from advertisement and other marketing techniques. The rhetoric is praiseworthy, the actual motivation behind it less so.

So by the time todays lawyer is fully “trained” he is something like 29/30 years of age, tired, used up and without a lot of solid perspectives. What can one do if that is the case?

Quit. Yes, that’s one of the answers – do something else entirely, something you actually love, that brings you joy and satisfaction. Many have done just that. The other day I was told a colleague from university quit everything and started writing fantasy books – and guess what? He is happy. Others started their own businesses in other fields entirely. The legal education for all its rigidness and practical uselessness (at least in Poland) provides one with a good understanding of the legal setting and business environment – so take advantage of this and try this and that. One should never be at the mercy of what others expect from you, or even of what you expect of yourself. Immerse with your inner you, touch upon the delicate fabric of your soul…

Another solution, equally plausible, and probably more appealing if you feel that you want to work in the profession, is to redefine what it means to be a lawyer today and in the future. If you were expecting the typical scenario “lawyer sitting in office waiting for client to come” then forget about this – once and for all. If you want clients then you have got to move, be active – see your law firm as a business, and build it like a business.

Over the years I have watched the legal sector in Poland. I know many lawyers, I have seen them work and I have worked with them. What always strikes me is the realization that lawyers forget that in actual fact they are service providers. Sure – we might have fancy offices, cool sounding titles, but in the end of the day our mission is to serve people. We are for the people, not the other way around. This is where, if you are a freshly baked lawyer, you are able to stand out. If you are good, if you can convince your potential clients that you really are that good, if you provide him/her with excellent client service and if you are able to build a strong organization (a topic which deserves a separate post) – then perhaps there is yet hope for you…

It’s about providing a product/service with actual value to the client. Better still if it is a problem solving service. Quality should be never compromised – in fact your existence as a legal entrepreneur pretty much depends on it. And then of course, it’s time to “specialize” – gone are the days when lawyers could consider themselves good in the law as a whole – sayonara. If you want to survive then specialize – and do it now, so as to be one of the first in your chosen field. This trend cannot be revoked, the time is now.  

To summarise this little entry: live the life you truly want to live – cliché, but so true… Try stuff, experiment, take (reasonable) risks, learn to succeed and fail and gather experience therefrom. Push your intellect and imagination to the limits. Thinking outside the box is helpful – many can, so few actually do…

 

January 11, 2014

Some reflections on what transpires and why

The following is not intended to be any elaborate academic discourse concerning the notion of existence per se. It’s more so a reflection of some of my loose thoughts, thoughts which I have deemed relevant enough to eternalize within the boundaries of this text…

What does it mean to be?

I am who I am because I am – I seem to acknowledge the fact that I exist, others seem to know that too. But do I exist because my body, perceptible extensive form exists – lives – or do I exist because I have always existed and will continue to exist, albeit in some different form? Do I exist at all? These are just some questions that have troubled thinkers since times immemorial. The same is true for me.

Some, most of the religious or esoteric sort, think they know the answer to that question. They speak of grand design, the immortal soul and lots of other stories… Good for them. I am even capable of respecting that point of view – they sure do have an easier life than those who are less inclined to “believe”.

I am less inclined to believe. Whereas I do appreciate the fact that many worldly phenomenon’s cannot be scientifically explained today, I am convinced that this is the case not because something is the result of some “force majeure” or “miracle”, but some process which we are not able to identify with contemporary techniques and technology. Cause and effect, nothing happens without a reason. In some sense life and the surrounding reality is merely a recurrent emanation of one cause creating a given effect. It’s a never ending cycle and hardly anything should come as a surprise. We are born, we live, we replicate, we wither away and die. The same applies to nations, cultures, entire civilizations even. Patterns emerge and repeat themselves in every sphere of our reality. Ad infinitum

I certainly do want to believe (like Mulder). But I cannot – I demand concrete proof. All belief systems are, in my modest opinion, entirely man made and thus it is doubtful whether they may be attributed authority status whilst discussing issues related to our existence or otherwise related topics.

As far as I can comprehend, so far do I acknowledge as true the fact that I exist. The boundary of my existence is limited only to the boundaries of my comprehension and imagination. This isn’t to say that my conviction is any proof of my existence. But for the sake of further argument in handling the following question, let’s assume that we exist.

What then is, or should be our role in life with the aforementioned in mind?

Reading the paragraphs above, you might come to the conclusion that all that remains for us is to embrace the futility of our fate. Whereas it is true that many people will lead their lives with precisely this sort of (almost depressive) state of mind, in the end there is no point to tread upon this track. The mere fact that we exist (or our conviction thereof), no matter for how long and in what conditions, is a gift (for lack of a better word) in itself.

The most common fear within all of us is the fear of death. The first time I truly understood that I can, and I will die was in my early adolescence. As a child you truly believe you can trick death, hope that technology will push the limits and extend life beyond what is comprehensible today. Interfacing computer and human consciousness is such an exciting concept! In some way I keep on hoping that someone, somewhere, sometime will succeed…

On the other hand I am aware that I am already too old (yes sounds strange when your 29) to benefit from such potential future life extending technologies. Realistically speaking such possibilities will arise in a hundred years or so. What we do have however is our current life span which, provided no accidents happen, is apr. 70 years for men and 80 years for women. In my case then that’s something like 20-40 years left, provided of course that some mortal accidents don’t befall me.

With such life prospect in mind it is then crucial to see life not only as a gift, but also as a reason to challenge your existing habits and routines and, most importantly preconceptions of what it means to live your life.

Learn to feel and to trust your gut instinct. Feel passionate about your passions, do what feels right for you, discard what you feel is unimportant or imposed upon you. At the same time be a giver – make people feel good about themselves – trust me, this will also make you feel better. What we all need is more trust between each other. People today are so immersed with their careers and ambitions that they forget about these essential, critical elements which are so contributory to our wellbeing. Avoid emotions such as greed and jealousy. These are but a by-product of frustration and deep-rooted distrust respectively…

If you are here, if you “are” at all then better make the best of your situation – be who you want to be, not what others expect of you…

In truth see things the following way: if I did not exist in the first place, then why should I care if I seize to exist? My existence is solely based upon my conviction, and that of others, that I exist. It’s essentially still quite possible that I actually do not exist, that this is some illusion. My conviction that I and everything around me exists can hardly be considered satisfactory evidence of my existence.

With such a perspective in place it should then be hardly necessary to worry about anything – all ambiguous emotions in actual fact have no place to be. Embrace what you have now, find the courage to move forward and proclaim yourself to be the Master of your Fate…

 

 

January 6, 2014

An Introduction

Here I am, writing my first blog entry in my New and Official Personal Blog. Why am I doing this? Generally, I believe that some events and aspects pertaining to our lifestyles, professional and academic lives deserve commentary. People should have the courage to voice their opinions, no matter how right or wrong they are.  It´s all about building character, mustering the courage to face the world and confront other lines of thought, to promote discourse, discussion…

Blogging isn’t something new to me. My very first blog, a poetry blog in fact (yes, however hard it is to believe…) was created back in the early 2000s. I think I was something like 19 years of age then. With that first poetry blog I found a way to express myself, to channel out those youthful emotions and find a way to imprint my day to day observations to the ever-arriving new life experiences. Reading some of my “works” today, I cannot help but feel kind of sorry for that young bloke. How naïve, inexperienced and full of faith in the goodness of mankind he was…

… and yet, that is the unconditional privilege of the young; to see the world through the perspective of the uninhibited adventurer, to be uncorrupted by apparent realism and be unequivocally loyal to one´s ideals and values, to trod the earth in search for one’s true path and to hope that at one point in time, there will come a day when you will actually make a difference, a difference for the better.

10 years have passed, and I sense, I know, that today I am not the same person as I was then. True, I still have that zeal to discover more, a belief in one’s own power to forge one´s destiny – yet I have grown somewhat disillusioned about the reality we live in, about man’s nature. I guess this was to be expected.

Experiences shape us. From the very beginning until the time when we seize to exist. I will not be who I am now in another 10 years. That is why I feel there has to be some record of who we are now, at any given moment in time, lest that memory of who we once were, of what we thought, will wither away from our conscience… By preserving our current line of thought we provide for our future selves perspective, and this in turn leads to some prolific contemplation. Lessons are thus learned – we gain an insight on who we are today by becoming aware of who we were in the past.

Some people immortalize that one moment in time through personal diaries, others use other means. The added value of having a blog is that a thought actually gets through (in most cases) to other people. This in turn encourages commentary and a follow-up discussion – something that is undeniably beneficial for both the writer and reader.

Whether I have something important to say, to write about, will have to be judged by every single one of you, the readers. I will do my best to try to amuse you. What will my blog be about? I will not limit myself to, say, “law” or “politics”. I am aware that there are subjects which are simply more interesting… I will wander from one topic to another. Besides, everything is – I believe – intertwined in some way, so setting clear topical borders is pretty much pointless. Some posts might be provocative, other less so. Topics will be chosen to rouse dialogue, stir one´s imagination and will constitute an effort to try to rekindle that spirit of youthful inquisitiveness and vigour which most of us used to be accustomed to as young adults…

Kind regards,

Adam Rogowski