Monday, December 6, 2010

Reflection - Week Fifteen

Wow!  It's already the end of the semester!

The ideas of development put forward in the "conference" were interesting... I believe we can't have the same plan for every country.  There are definitely different problems with every country and different strengths.  It is the same way with illnesses, social problems, and other personal problems.  The same thing won't work for everyone because everyone is different.

As I look back upon the semester, I can see things that I should have done better.  I can see places I should have studied more, tried harder, and focused better.  I see these mistakes as a learning opportunity going forward.  Doing better going forward is important.  The thing I need to remember is that there is no sense in living in the past.  I need to take my experiences and move on in my life and better my own problems to turn them into solutions.

Sovereignty protects difference?

Rosenblum notes on p. 245 of the paperback edition: "The only way to keep them [the space-residing humans, who are phenotypically different even though they are genetically the same] safe is to be separate. A nation with the power to protect its own." Hence, sovereignty protects difference, in this way of thinking about things. Do you agree?

I do agree with Rosenblum's statement.  We can see throughout history where people have invaded and removed sovereignty and people have suffered.  We can also see through our lives how we allow powerful sovereign nations have protected their culture.  However, we need to recognize that power in a state is what protects its sovereignty, which in turn protects its difference.

If a state cannot protect its sovereignty, it cannot protect its difference.  It has been seen in indigenous populations throughout history.  We took away their sovereignty, and their difference fell apart.  We gave it back, and the culture came back and is now recognized and studied.  Sovereignty is crucial to difference.

Is Todorov right?

On p. 250, Todorov writes: "'The man who finds his country sweet is only a raw beginner; the man for whom each country is as his own is already strong; but only the man for whom the whole world is as a foreign country is perfect' (I myself, a Bulgarian living in France, borrow this quotation from Edward Said, a Palestinian living in the United States, who himself found it in Erich Auerbach, a German exiled in Turkey)." Is he right?

I think Todorov is right in a sense, but also wrong.  It depends on how the individual "self" looks at the foreign "other".  If the individual sees the foreign as acceptable and interesting, then the quote is right.  If the whole world is foreign and the individual treats the foreign as equal, the world can be harmonious.  If people treat the "other" as equal, the world would be perfect.  This, however, is not how it has been in the world.

"Selves" often see the "other" as less than themselves.  They are petty, closed-minded, and often hostile.  This is seen among various states and even religious groups.  Since the "self" in these cases can't see the "other" as okay, and the people within these groups can't either, there can be no perfection in the thought process.  There can be no perfection in the way people treat each other.  Sadly, if people keep there closed-minded ideals, Todorov's quote can never be right.  Nobody will have that perfection the quote mentions.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reflection: Week Fifteen

The end of the semester has finally arrived! As our world politics seminar comes to a close, I am left with conflicted emotions. While I am excited to launch into my group’s spring research thesis, I know I will miss the open discussion model offered in world politics. I have truly enjoyed the process of sorting out and grappling with political issues out loud with my classmates, Gunperi, and Professor Jackson. Lively debate always presents me with an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the complexity of international affairs.

My group and topic choice for the spring research thesis was directly affected by my positive experience with lively debate in world politics this semester. In fact, I decided to work with Christian, Toby, and Gabe because of the breadth of opinions represented in the group. Take Christian for example. While Christian and I certainly hold divergent opinions on important political issues, we have a similar appreciation of pragmatic analysis. I am truly looking forward to lively discussions on the implications of using private military companies as non-state actors in modern warfare.

While I will miss discussions in world politics, I am ready to move on to analyzing both theory and application for a single issue. So if you have any interesting articles or professional journals on PMCs or the evolving state of 21st century warfare, send it my way!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reflection - Week Fourteen

Well, not too much happened this week to report.  Other than the issue in Korea.

Scary stuff, that.  I really feel for the people, the innocent civilians stuck in the crossfire.  What motivates a person to rule a country like North Korea?  Moreover, I'm kinda concerned about the international response.  It's so... noncommittal! Especially with Japan.  Also, how can North Korea accuse South Korea of using civilian shields?!  The whole mess is shocking and horrifying, and the affected people are in my prayers as we head into a new week to see what is in store for us.

Reflection: Week Fourteen

Thanksgiving break was supposed to be my oasis; my refuge from nights reading over international development policy, questioning justice systems, and conjugating obscure verbs in foreign languages. In high school, I spent most of my time wishing I could be out of my small town and in the nation’s capital with the politicos and coffee shop revolutionaries. Towards the end of November, all I wanted was family football games, my sad excuse for a car, and some apple pie.

Nevertheless, I somehow found myself in a rather contentious political debate or “discussion” over the Thanksgiving table with my uncle. The debate was sparked when my uncle learned about my intentions to study abroad in Istanbul. He then proceeded to inform my family around him of the militant Islamic movement taking over secular Turkey. According to him, this corresponded to the Muslim plan to re-populate rapidly and take over the Earth. As I was starting to eat my apple pie, I winced in my seat. No politics. I promised myself, no politics. I just wanted to enjoy my apple pie. However, as the assertions of “truth” became grander and grander, I was unable to stop myself from intervening. This launched me into an hour discussion over Islam, Judeo-Christian prophecies, and Zionism.

As my uncle and I debated events in the Middle East, our perceptions of reality and ways of thinking collided. There was no way for me to convince him of the facts when his world surrounded the literal interpretation of the Bible. My facts meant nothing to him, just as the literal translation of the biblical prophesies did not merit truth in my eyes. As I edged away from the conversation, recognizing that nothing could be gained, I smiled at the irony of the discussion. It seems cross-cultural encounters, similar to the conflict between the colonizers and the Native Americans, can be found at the dinner table on a Thanksgiving holiday centuries later.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Which is a better representation?

This is kinda funny.  Seeing this picture, with the Redskins flag and the museum in the background, reminds me that America has not really remembered all that much about what we did to the native Americans.  The "Redskins" name itself is kind of offensive.  I would say it's time for America to wake up, but people have been saying that for years and it hasn't done any good thus far.

I loved the museum's design.  Seeing the different native American houses outside and having the art all over was very cool and paid a much better tribute to the culture.  Sports teams such as the Indians or the Redskins just ring offensive to me.  This has been a topic of debate for years and I think it will probably just continue.