Monday, November 29, 2010


This has been a crazy week. I am fried. It is almost 2 am in the morning. I just wrote 2 papers back to back: a 10 page paper on fair-trade in Chiapas and a 10 page ethnography on sarees and the Indian female immigrant micro culture. Did I also mention that a potential suitor spent my holiday with me? Yes, I am burned out. And the week hasn't even begun yet. I do not have an insightful thing to say tonight. I apologize for the lack of wisdom in my words tonight. But what will keep me up this week will be this song so I hope you enjoy:

Plus there is a feminist spoken word event at the perch on December 2nd. I think this is the only way I will restore my sanity: poetry. I already know what I am gonna write about:


if you know what I mean...
Oh the joys of post-colonial feminism!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reflection (Week #14)

Rather than surprised at the recent conflict between North and South Korea, I am more plagued with a sense of Deja Vu. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Or in the case of North Korea, violate a previous treaty, respond to increased repercussions with conflict, agree to return to negotiations and form a new agreement, repeat as necessary until North Korea becomes accepted as a nuclear weapons capable state. From the violated 1991 North-South Denuclearization Accord, to the violated 2005 Six Party Joint Statement, to the violated 2007 and 2008 Six Party Agreements, North Korea has done a fine job at repeating. However, the one variable that has not remained constant for this most recent escalation of tension between North and South Korea is Kim Jong-Un, the son of and likely successor to Kim Jong-Il. Unfortunately, Kim Jong-Un, an individual with no previous North Korean military experience, is attempting to bolster his political standing and legitimize his future as leader of North Korea in a time where the regime is much more fragile than during Kim Jung-Il's time. Therefore, the world response to North Korea's most recent political-military stunt to leverage power and legitimacy may end up reaching farther and lasting longer than either the father or son would have anticipated, creating a more dangerous situation that may break North Korea's cycle of treaty and conflict for better, or for worse.

Thanks Giving

Thanksgiving. Thanks giving. So in theory, we should thank and be grateful for what we have and then give back? But do we actually do that? I remember in middle school learning about the pilgrims and how grateful they were for the Indian’s help. Because of their generosity, they gave back to the land and their fellow neighbors. But when we fast-forward a couple hundred years I notice a difference. Thanksgiving has changed so much and I wonder if this mark has gone unnoticed. For one, the hullabaloo of the holiday has become a tradition, a day that is expected to occur. A turkey is killed and stuffed with bread and it’s assumed that this animal will be available. When the whole family is gathered around the table, a brief thanks is given for the family that was able to come in and a warm smile is sent to every member for their health and happiness. The “thanks” is taken care of but where’s the “giving?” Or was the “giving” not even meant to be incorporated in the title?

Because we are comforted by the thought that there will always be enough turkeys and airplanes to feed and transport many, we feel entitled to sit back and relax. We know these are constants and we recognize that we can take these for granted. But what if, say next year, turkeys become extinct and millions of families switch to Tofurkey instead? Would we recognize all those years that we took our comforts for granted? It’s never too late to start giving and it’s best to start now for we never know when things might change. Most importantly, this notion of giving and receiving is something that should not only be applicable to one time annually. As a moral citizen, I feel that it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep this in mind year round. Whether it be volunteering at a homeless shelter or committing smaller acts of kindness, these actions add up. I hope it’s not too late for the world to start giving back for what they’ve received.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Voy Caminando: And I keep Walking

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

-Tzetan Todorov.

Is this a quote about the global nomad? Is this the ultimate sense of universality? That we need to treat all people the same and not get tied down to these imagined communities that are wrapped up in sovereignties and national pride? The term global nomad is not about universality. Its about the individual. Its an attitude. Saying that you are a global nomad is a reflection on the self and not as the collective because the global nomad, if we follow Todrov's logic, is not tied down to a nation. He or she can pick him or herself up and drift.
And this is where we come to La Malinche.
Why is it that every tableau of the native female describes a woman who is her so called ambassador for her people. It is not just some professional diplomatic self to her people. She also does it because of love. And when I say love, I mean lust. She is entrapped or she entraps him the blankito and releases her secrets of her people. Is she the global nomad? Is it about self interest? I mean power struggle is constant. So do we try to win in a hopeless situation? Is that the global nomad? Well in my opinion, the global nomad is an attitude that would not just be one person in society. The reason La Malinche is held to this standard of "betrayer" is because she understood the fluidity of bounderies. Her love and sex life became public for future generations forever because of the diplomatic position she had among her people. She was a global nomad because she was neither tied to her Aztec people of Spanairds. Regardless of what people tell you. Why else would she have acted in those ways? She did not answer to one world power over the other at the end of the day. I think we should all be like La Malinche. We should be global nomads. What is a sovereignty? IR theories of realism and liberalism often leave out a major structure of sovereignty: CULTURE. Why is it that the Zapatistas wanted their own region? They shared a "struggle" and mode of living. If we can understand the fluidity of culture, we can understand the imagined communities that are nations. Too much national pride adds to even more convolusion.

When it comes to me, I consider myself a global nomad because I have been raised by my Indian nationalist parents on US soil and became a woman in Mexico. I have no place to call home. And I am happy with that because I realize that I will have an open mind. I will be able to walk through doors and look behind only to dream of memories but I will not be too sad over the loss of a "home country". I use the system. I have an American passport. I have American opportunities and rights. But do I really have a burning love for this nation? No. I guess I am your La Malinche. Using your nation so that I can keep walking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Lesser of Two Evils

Which of the two representations of the American Indian in the photograph above (the National Museum of the American Indian or the Washington Redskins flag) is more acceptable? Immediately, my mind finds the more formal Museum of the American Indian to be a far more acceptable and respectful representation of Native Americans. However, when attempting to justify my answer to this seemingly straightforward question, I find answering to be far more difficult. Certainly, the Washington Redskins flag does no justice to Native American culture because it one, generalizes American Indian culture, thereby distorting it, and two, attempts to mix the diverse cultures and traditions of the many different Native American tribes with the popular culture of American football. On the other hand, the National Museum of the American Indian does this to some extent as well. By attempting to include so many diverse cultures in a single museum and under the blanket term “American Indian”, the museum also distorts certain aspects of Native American life by failing to highlight their differences. Additionally, despite the efforts to portray the modernity of the American Indian through modern art, the museum does not successfully represent the Native Americans as a surviving and technically sovereign people. Therefore, the failures of both representations of the American Indian stem from their generalizations of varied and distinct cultures, as well as their neglect for the existence of modern Native American culture. However, the question does not include the option to choose neither. Therefore, I must choose the National Museum of the American Indian to be the more acceptable of the two because it is the lesser of the two misrepresentations. Unlike, the Washington Redskins flag, the museum attempts to represent the American Indian culture in a valid manner, despite its generalizations, and also does include some evidence, be it minimal, of a continuing Native American culture.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pirates of Penzance from an International Relations Perspective

As a number of you know, I had to miss last Wednesday's lab to play a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. Although I was not able to explore the National Museum of the American Indian, my experience was not completely void of reference to world politics and international relations theory. From the characterization of the “modern” Major-General to the constructivist focus on identity and how it affects relations between, in the case of the operetta, the Pirates of Penzance and the Major-General and his daughters.

The characterization of being “the very model of a modern Major-General” is not an uncommon popular culture reference. The term has been used to describe individuals from George Washington to General Barney-White Spunner, a British general who played an instrumental role in the British involvement in the Iraq War, to even Kim Jong Eun, the possible successor to Kim Jong Il. It has its roots in the Major-General's patter song, possibly the most famous work in the Pirates of Penzance, used to describe the Major-General's impressive education and well-rounded knowledge of the world in a satirical manner (lyrics). Apart from the comedic genius of Gilbert and Sullivan, this song contains some important political commentary regarding the importance of a general education not only for the general work force but for political and military leaders as well.

In addition to characterizing common players in the international realm, Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta gives a compelling argument in favor of certain constructivist tenets, specifically the role of identity. The plot of The Pirates of Penzance is built off of the changing identity of the Major-General in relation to the altercasting of the Pirates of Penzance (synopsis). The Pirates of Penzance are described as being a band of orphaned young men. Therefore, to elicit their sympathies and escape the pirates unharmed, the educated Major-General creates a fake identity by claiming to be an orphan himself. This scene argues the constructivist belief that the relations within our international system, whether between states, NGOs, or a mixture, can be drastically affected and changed depending upon the perceived identities of the two parties. Additionally, the role of altercasting is instrumental to the development of the second act of the operetta. It is discovered towards the end of the work that the pirates were all, in fact, noblemen that developed into the pirate gang the audience sees through the altercasting of the orphanage and society in general. However, as soon as this information is revealed, the identity of the Pirates of Penzance changes dramatically back to being respected noblemen, resolving the conflicts between the previous pirates, the Major-General, and the Crown. Therefore, although Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance is a genius comedic operetta, it is also has significant value as a microcosm of constructivist international relations theory.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reflection #13

An interesting concept that was brought up in the podcast and in our readings is the idea of language. I’m not only referring to communication but the notion that our thoughts are limited to our vocabulary. There are theories that we can’t even begin to comprehend because we do not have a word for them. It’s not necessarily because we do not have the intellectual capabilities, but because we don’t have the means to describe them.

This came to mind during class today. What Cortes did (in my mind), of annihilating the Aztecs and other indigenous tribes, was inhumane and immoral. At the same time, the culture he came from had not established the concept and the word for genocide. In Cortes’s mind, what he was doing was accomplishing his mission, and if it involved killing humans, so be it. Other examples of words that were not yet developed but still had implications in everyday life are: acting ‘humanely,’ ‘humanitarian’ and ‘conquest.’ Since none of us experienced the culture of the 15th century, we are not privy to the mindset. Perhaps the notions of just and unjust killing were really there? Was Cortes capable of differentiating between these two types of killing, or was death solely an overarching concept?

As our world evolved over time, obviously new takes to an idea expanded as well. For example, take law. What started off as a king writing out a list of laws on a scroll has turned into a complex court system with international law, the UN, allies, treaties and much more. But what is interesting is despite these differences, the underlying idea is still there. Cortes recognized the need to work with La Malinche and Montezuma, though the phrase, ‘I need to make allies and treaties’ did not go through his mind. There were some forms of diplomacy back then (though not as complicated as today) which he chose not to use in order to peacefully accomplish his mission. The narrower language that Cortes was born into limited him, but he was still human. Vocabulary has changed, but human instincts haven’t. Murder has never been something societies’ readily promote. That is why I believe it is hard to defend Cortes for his actions because regardless of the archaic language and concepts, he is still human with human senses.

Friday, November 19, 2010

La Malinche: The Mother of Crucified Woman

In Chavela Vargas' song La Llorona, she sings "yo soy como el chili verde, llorona, picante, pero sabroso"
I am like a green chilli: spicy, but delicious.
I think this is the mantra of La Malinche and every intelligent woman who is in the midst of duty and pleasure.

What fascinates me is representation of these women. She is both the mother and the raped or the chingona. She was violated. Some people say that La Llorona did not have a choice in the matter. She was weak. The name La Llorona signifies this sentiment. But at the same time, she is strong, she is the suductress. Those lips, those eyes, the fiercity in her tongue. She is the mother of a bastardized land. Did she abandon her people? Was she selfish? To me, La Malinche will not be one or the other: weak or whorish. She is strength to me. Strong women find themselves fighthing themselves at the end. They are glorified for their intelligence and prized for their beauty like a jewel. But they are judged as possession. That is the mistake. They are not treated as women. If they refuse a man, she is a harlot. If she sleeps with him, she is a harlot. This is the ascribed identity of a La Malinche. And trust me, there are several of these mujeres walking amogst us: Cleopatra, Frida, Ms. Monroe, our mothers, even you.

But what we need to realize is that these women were women. Not gods. Not monsters. Women. They were full of life. Full of determination, love, lust, youth. Women who defy the norm are automatically categorized. But we are not weak. We are not La Llorona. We are La Malinche. Women of our own destiny. Choices we make are not for any man. In my mind, La Malinche, although lost her name, stole Cortes'. She became the face as he became the raper. I am not glorifiying La Malinche. I am paying homage. To me, La Malinche is not just a mother or a weeper. She is strength. She is intelligence. She had a duty to herself and no civilization and no man. How dare empire after empire puts her on trial. Trials in which men stand up and point the finger at a woman with hair thicker then huipiles. As my mother always says men will always point fingers, but it is up to us to hang our heads in shame or hold our backs tall and take the arrow with pride. But must we lose at the end? Have we? Have we coquetas lost everything? No. We are the winners at the end of the day. We live in songs, poetry, cantina songs in bars tucked in verdant Chiapaneca hills. That is where we live. We live between heaven and hell. We are Las Malinches de La Tierra. The Malinches of the Earth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CORTEZ, the Interpreter and Manipulator of Maladies

Todrov in part 2 of THE CONQUEST OF AMERICA makes the argument that the Spaniards were able to conquer the Aztecs successively because they were able to communicate in the forums of interhuman communications. In fact, Todrov said on page 104, that "Communication among the Aztecs is above all a communication with the world". It was too holistic and left room for Spanaird manipulation.

I agree with him from a cultural anthropoligal persepective but what needs to be added is the fact that the Spaniards were able to manipulate the fact that Aztecs did not hold so much of an importance on interhuman communication as the Spanairds did in retrospect to other forms of communication such as communication with the Glods. The identities ascribed in Aztec societies were beyond the human domain. Gods could walk and Earth and were political actors in Aztec society. Everything was read into. Todrov describes the Aztec documentation of the sizes of fish or the swallowing of a fisherman by an aligator (p. 94). Omens were everywhere to the Aztecs. In fact, there were men who were trained to read these omens and decipher what it meant (p. 79). There was a cultural hierarchy with several systems. The Aztecs looked at history cyclically. So when Cortez came, Moctezuma was terrified that Cortez was a god who was once a Toltec, the civilization the Aztecs conquered. Moctezuma was not confident because he was afraid of exogenous attacks because it
was mentioned in history and in legends that the Gods would take action.

Now the Spaniards on the other hand had a great resource. La Malinche. A woman who will be forever be revered and hated in Mexican history. She was the intelligent interpreter who was the lover of Cortez who was able to narrate to Cortez the stories and attitudes of the Aztec people. So not much was a priori to the Spanairds. They were able to focus on interhuman connections with Malinche and other Indians who were on the fringes of Aztec society. They were the minorities that were marginalized by the powerful state of the Aztecs. The Spanairds were able to decifer signs that the Aztecs decifered thanks to internal connections to the Aztecs. But since they had that knowledge they were able to manipulate it. The best example is when Moctezuma and Cortez are climbing the stares of the palace and Moctezuma is tired. Cortez knows that the Gods never feel pain in the Aztec religion so he says that he is not tired. He is ascribing the identity of GOD with his action. He is duping Moctezuma because he is making himself look like the divine (114).

Of course Cortez had guns, germs, and steel on his side to conquest the Aztecs. But the manipulation of the knowledge of signs led them to the position to assert the 3(GGS) in the first place.

PAINTING ABOVE BY José Clemente Orozco, Cortés and Malinche, 1926.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Todorov and Signs

Todorov takes an interesting approach to the quote, “Did the Spaniards defeat the Indians by means of signs?” Since the word ‘sign’ is ambiguous, it holds many forms of interpretations. Todorov continues to expand on this idea by proposing some options: signs in the form of religious emblems, through communication, through divination, astronomy etc. Because the natives on the Americas were so intuned to nature and the gods, a small bump would cause a shift. In other words, the arrival of the Spaniards was so out of the ordinary that the alignments of the stars were different as well as other forms of divinity. He writes, “Every event the least bit out of the ordinary , departing from the established order, will be interpreted as the herald of another event, generally an unlucky one, still to come (‘which implies that nothing in this world happens randomly’) (64). The indigenous quickly picked up on these occurrences and responded to them. Because they spent more time on this, then building up an army, they were materially less advantaged. The Spaniards were the opposite, and instead, spent time building an army and a navy. Todorov asserts that by utilizing these techniques, the Indians backed away (in some regards), superstitiously.

Though he makes a strong argument, I still feel there are some loopholes. The indigenous acknowledged the signs, but they had options as to how they would respond. They have enough knowledge of the land to stage surprise attacks and undermine the Europeans. They could be sly and fight back. But sadly, the Spaniards were stronger and carried with them unstoppable diseases. As we can see, the Indians were defeated because the odds were against them.

Despite this missing link, it’s important not to undermine the theology of the Indians. Due to the era and the mindset of Columbus in 15th century Spain, he was not able to fully appreciate their culture. Because of this, he inevitably missed the ‘signs’. This references another questions brought up in class, “What is the ‘it’ we are accusing Columbus of?’ I believe there are many, but in regards to the signs, I think the ‘it’ is his ignorance. He is ignorant of their mindset and their perspectives. Yes, he comes from a society that isn’t aware of other cultures or religions. But he does and can see their “perplexed and doubtful” faces when he lands; and it doesn’t take a genius to understand that he should have stopped and think rationally. He doesn’t, and that is when things fall apart. Perhaps I am an optimist, but if he had approached the natives more reasonably and equally, the signs might have been different. Would the Indians have lost then if the signs were different?

Reflection (Week #12)

I found last class' discussion about poverty and the differences between various philanthropic organizations, specifically the differences between organizations like “World Vision” and “Kiva”, very interesting. Although there was significant discussion regarding the flaws of single-gift donations through organizations such as “World Vision”, there were very few negative comments about micro-finance. I found this strange considering that the effectiveness of micro-finance in severely impoverished areas is strongly debated. Personally, I think all of us, myself included, gave unjust glorification to the idea of micro-financing in class. Although, micro-financing is, in my opinion, more effective than single-gift donations, I think its implications for development are limited.

On the surface, micro-financing appears to be a near perfect idea: provide a small loan to an individual in an impoverished area to help finance the creation of a small business and upon repayment of the loan recycle the money to help another individual lift themselves out of poverty. However, despite the fact that the ten largest micro-finance funds grew an enormous 32% last year alone, micro-finance is no where close to the be-all end-all of philanthropic donations that it appears to be. Apart from the the lack of empirical data on precisely how effective these loans are of lifting individuals out of poverty, the defining idea that enterprises are financed on a specifically individual basis is the intrinsic flaw in the the idea of micro-financing. Financing individuals to create extremely small enterprises often does not lift the individual out of poverty and is not a cost effective way help eliminate poverty within an entire population. Countries that have helped impoverished populations have never done so using micro-financing. It was done through the funding and development of large enterprises, which provided jobs and resources for a significant percentage of the population. For example, funding a garment factory rather than giving a loan to individual entrepreneurs to buy sewing machines is a far more cost effective way to both promote industry and create jobs. Therefore, we should be directing less of our money towards individual development, through either single-gifts our micro-finance, and more towards the development of large job-creating enterprises and general industrialization of impoverished areas.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Riddle of Development and Post Colonialism

I am afraid that I have more questions than answers and I can't believe it. Just September, I used to speak about the empowerment of women, the right to education, and the issues with poverty. And if someone questioned me, I quoted the UN's Declaration of Human Rights. But what is Human Rights? Can someone have the right for education? Is it a right? Well, if we applied the golden rule that all people are created equal and treat people as you would do onto yourself, I would want the ability to complete my college or even PhD education as well. But in indigenous communities in Chiapas Mexico, education would disturb the mode of life: horticulturalism. It takes the entire community from children to elders to participate on working the land. Breaking up this mode of life contributes to illegal immigration which leads to a whole slew of problems. What do I do in this case? Was all my rhetoric a waste? I still do not think so. I think in post colonial communities, the morale is down. Some people do not know where to go next. Some continue the spurs of a spencerian economy which is where money lust/ power lust is justified like what is going in India. To me, I do not like the definition of poverty being a person living on less than 2 dollars a day because in Chenalo, the community I lived in, a person lived on 20 pesos but they had access to food and clean water. It is

(My little niece and nephew in Chiapas)

really hard to "develop" those areas because one must understand what women's issues are about. But I think I have the answer to this one: THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY. Through the documentations of these indigenous and post colonialized marginalized people can we empower them. With our empathy and us wanting to support them, but through exchange, give them incentive can we achieve an integration of these people. I want to give an example of Guyana. President Jagdeo has done wonderful things and Guyana is the only country in the world to increase its indigenous populations in the past decade from 7% to 15%
. He put indigenous people in places of position where they did not need a college education. He started out by training them as police officers. This motivated other Amerindian people to look into higher education. Now several of their cabinet members are indigenous. I have hope for humanity. And I do not think interest in those who are marginalized is due to self interest or post colonial guilt. A lot of it is empathy. The reason I went to Chiapas was because I could not believe the Mexican government would steal land from the horticultural indigenous people. It upset me. I thought about India and my history and I could relate. Empathy. I think it drives the world more than we think.

(this is precisely why I have faith in humanity. I love him more than anything I know)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflection #12

“Though we may have different skin colors, our blood is the same,” Eve, the Congolese refugee who recently visited AU, emphasized. Despite our physical, ethnic and religious differences, we are so similar. Eve continued to explain how everyone feels the same hunger pains and the need for water. No one prefers to live in a refugee camp over a comfortable house. Most importantly, no one wants to in danger. We are so fortunate to live in an environment where we don’t have to constantly question our safety. Instead, we sit back in our chairs with the newspaper and read about families elsewhere who are ravaged by war and rebel groups. And our way of showing sympathy is to click the mouse on the link to “help build a well!” and enter our credit card number. I don’t know about you, but that frustrates me. It further adds to our ignorance and how much of life we take for granted.

So what can we do instead of obtaining a moment’s worth of warmth by spending $35 on an impoverished village? For one, we can take action. It’s vital that we start with the grassroots problems and work up. As mentioned in class, the main problem is the lack of education prevalent in these areas. Whole families don’t have the knowledge on how to fight back and better their situation. Even worse are the women who don’t have the voice to shout out against violations done to them. There are thousands, if not millions, of raped women who don’t have the strength and courage. Should this be ignored? I believe a stronger emphasis should be put on promoting education for families and most importantly children. No matter how cheesy it may sound, children are the voice of the future. If they are left uneducated, how can we expect them to make informed decisions?

A person who I look up to and would love to meet one day is a man named Greg Mortison. If you have ever read the book, Three Cups of Tea, you will see what I mean. This was a man who saw the injustice Pakistani and Afghani villages experienced by not having schools and how they were being manipulated by the local governments. With his own money, he went over and successfully constructed numerous schools in the regions. Why don’t we have more people like him? He recognized, like Eve, that we do have the same blood; and as global citizens, we must act upon that. It is time that more of us get up and advocate for what is right.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Equity ≠ Equality

Fairness is synonymous with equity, not equality. A system, such as the current international economic system, can be fair without resulting in equality. The fact that states are unequally prepared for global economic competition is not a flaw that makes international economics unfair. In fact, the economic failure of a state because it enters into international transactions systematically ill-prepared represents the equity behind our current competition backed global economic system. Whether or not states begin similarly prepared for global economic competition does not negate or confirm the impartiality, or fairness, of the international economic system, rather it is a simple fact that has more to do with specific state history and past decisions than with the global system. Therefore, when analyzing the fairness of the competition based international economic structure, the transactions between states relating to the system and their outcomes are far more important. For example, if a state enters into an economic competition with a significantly more economically powerful and secure state ill-prepared or with a weak and failing economy and does not fail, then the current economic system would be considered unfair because the outcome does not match its origins. For this reason, the current competition based system neither fair nor equitable.

Personally, I agree with Robert Jackson's interpretation of the current international economic structure (71-74 of Beyond the Sovereignty Dilemma). Our current competition based economic system is combined with forms of international society based aid designed to protect weaker economic states from unequal economic competition. However, these restrictions on competition in our international economic system make the system unfair and inequitable because they are, by definition, partial to weaker economic states. I am not arguing to abolish aid to impoverished or disaster damaged populations, however I am arguing to eliminate the current “normative regulations” on the international economic system that stifle competition. By transforming states that cannot afford to maintain sovereignty into “international protectorates”, we are prolonging the existence of weak and in some cases corrupt governments and “quasi-states” that quite literally do not have the resources to provide for their populations. Therefore, by removing the current international regulations that stifle competition between states, the international economic system would become both more equitable, as well as better support the world's populations.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Campesino, The Immigrant, and the Emperor: Riddles of Fairness within the Realms of International Economy

Case Number 1: December 31, 1994, the day that Mexico reached out to her blankita sisters and signed the NAFTA free trade agreement in hopes to catapult the third North American country into the first world. Mexico wanted a higher GDP, but to do so, the government had to hold back on its plans in Chiapas to redistribute land for indigenous people. The Eido model was abandoned so that wealthy rancheros could provide The US and Canada with agricultural goods while the Mayan people were pulled out of their ancestral lands and forced to leave. According to the IMF, post NAFTA, the Mexican economy grew by 3.6% and kept growing at a steady but promising rate. It may have helped Mexico, but what about the famers in Chenalo, Oventic, Chamula, all of these indigenous municipalities now inhabited by wealthy rancheros? Was this fair?

Case Number 2: My father, one of five children, grew up in the small village of Nangali. His family was so poor that he had to steal rice sacks from the local rice factory so that he had a pair of shorts for school. He walked three miles to school from home and back every day because it was all he had. He studied by candle light early in the mornings, his youth spent bent over English books until one day he stood out in his village school. His teachers applied my father for governmental scholarships. He lived in hostel after hostel, leaving the sleepy village of Nangali. Finally, he gained admittance to a medical program in Valure, one of the best in the country. He graduated as number one in his class and was offered a job in America. He could not believe it. His entire life spent working with no time to rest and he was going to America! He read and read everything that he could about that country. And then he had a daughter. She grew up reading Marx and Hegel. To his dismay, she did not read about math or science like him, but what the meaning of life was. One day, my dad asked me why I was so interested in defending indigenous rights. He told me that some people have to be at the bottom. Some people had to be marginalized for others to prosper. But he also said, opportunities should be provided boys and girls like him could make it big. Spoken like a true devotee of Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie, who left his village in Scotland, built an empire of coal and steel. But he did build great libraries, museums, and foundations for the public so that they too could make it like he did. My father and Carnegie would argue that the system is fair because the opportunity is available.

If we put two and two together, I understand where my father was coming from. He was a success story. He worked very hard. But those success stories, although we hear them often, are quite rare. Can there be success stories in Chiapas? Where is the opportunity? The Mexican government is starting to do something for its Indigenous populations. Why? Out of love of its marginalized people? Did they all of a sudden find Indigenous culture worth protecting? Not really. Carnegie did the same thing. Carnegie set up these institutions in part because he believed in it, but also to save face. Do we see Andrew Carnegie as a money lusting factory owning pig? Not really. We see him as an innovative entrepreneur who inspired his workers but things were not that sugar coated. He did after all have strikes and he was not initially popular at all. Building these forums of education enabled him to change his image while motivating the masses. In Mexico, the government is bringing medical aid and makes it mandatory for medical students to go to Indigenous communities and provide aid for a couple months to a years. The government is also providing electricity to places stretching out to the Mayans in the Lacandon Indians outside the Lacandon jungle. Saving Face. Providing those opportunities. The world scrutinized the Mexican government because of their blatant acts of injustice. Who wants the identity of a sinner? Mexico’s sudden interest in the perseverance of Chiapanecan culture is o save face. The world is full of flux. There are tidal waves of injustice followed up by programs to benefit those who are marginalized. Is motive important? Not really. Indigenous communities in Chiapas have access to medical care, clean water, and electricity. They at least have them. And looking at my father? Why do you think India has all these government scholarships for the poor? Its because India wants to change its image because it knows that those in villages are marginalized and dont have the opportunities that those in cities have. My father achieved what he was because of a major PR campaign. But that's ok. I am happy my dad is here and has achieved what he has regardless of the reason.


Book by Andrew Carnegie that inspired me. You should check it out


The Most Unfair "Monolpoly" Game

To step back for a second, it’s important to note that there was no “god” that allotted each nation its wealth, power, capacity, autonomy and strength to rule. There wasn’t any mastermind who drew out the world’s borders and calculated the GDP of each. Rather, these factors were determined as time moved on. As wars, depressions, surpluses and trade impacted the globe today, each nation utilized its monetary capacities in different means. For example, Costa Rica chose not to support an army while America opted for a state-of-the-art army. North Korea chose to participate in nuclear arms proliferation while other smaller nations abstained.

In reference back to the “god,” who can we blame for such unbalance? Can we blame the money gods or the military gods? Rather, we are blaming centuries of individuals who helped shape the expenditures and characteristics of each state. These individuals were in control of the state’s decisions in determining their economic position. Thus, decisions that were either made (or sadly implemented) on nations help determine their wealth today. In certain circumstances it may seem unfair that the DRC would lose to China in a competition. But world politics is not a monopoly game where each player gets exactly two $500 bills at the start of the game. We live in a world today where a whole continent starts off the game with $1 while the globe’s super power starts off with more.

I feel conflicted by this question. Part of me wants to be a pragmatist and say, “my argument above supports my position that it’s ‘fair’ because this is how the world is today. But deep down, I know it’s not fair. It’s unjust that the world was carved up this way. What karma made the US such a strong nation while Burma was cast aside? Is it fair that Africa lost the competition? It seems like a lost cause, because we do not have control other sovereign nations. It is up to each individual state to better the problem. When these states are run by corrupt governments, the problem becomes deeper. If we can advocate more for just democracies and ‘power to the people,’ then the public would elect fair officials. Hopefully, these representatives would be selfless enough to spend the nation’s wealth to better the economy rather than bettering themselves. Yet realistically, it is near impossible for one individual to fix the problems of his/her predecessors. As long as the problem is recognized and the people have a say, hopefully states will become more ‘equally’ wealth.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reflection (Week #11)

Last class we had a very in depth discussion about individual wealth and the extent of its relativity and whether less tangible qualities other than monetary ones could be included under the umbrella of wealth. Personally, I still regard the wealth of an individual as being measured by the number of opportunities presented and the individual's ability to capitalize on the opportunity they view as most favorable, whether this ability is based upon tangible assets or other more existential ones, such as knowledge. For this reason, I believe that when defining wealth in terms of the international system, the relationship between the wealth and power of a given state is very close.

Much a state's ability to coerce, either peacefully and diplomatically or through military conflict, is acquired through economic capabilities and economic interactions. This interdependent relationship between a state's wealth and power, a facet of power with realism tends to dismiss, can be clearly seen in some of the history's most powerful state actors. In both the British Empire and the United States, the peak of their respective power in the international system is characterized by the possession of strong economies. Additionally, their decline of power also paralleled a significant decline of wealth. Even if one wholly accepts a realist argument that state actors' sole goal is to maximize power and security, it is still difficult to maintain that a state's power is not premised on its wealth because most all elements of coercion require significant wealth. Therefore, when one leaves economic relations outside of the scope of traditional security, the study of conflict can be severely limited. For example, the Opium War between the Qing Dynasty and the British Empire was one that centered almost entirely around the changing economic relationship between Britain and China due to the British cultivation of a strong and detrimental opium market in China. As the market for opium in China grew rapidly responding to British importation of the drug, the British trade deficit with the Qing Empire quickly reversed itself, giving the British significant power over Chinese affairs, eventually leading to armed conflict. Therefore, I think that both the economic and opportunistic wealth of a state directly influences the power of that state in the international system and visa versa, making the two interdependent.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Case for Diwali: A reflection

Friday when I was packing my suitcase to visit my family for the weekend, my fellow floormates came in, wondering where I was going. Home I said. They asked why. I said Diwali. They gave me a weird look. Diwali? Whats that? I stared at them. How did they not know what Diwali is. And then I remembered. Hinduism is not an Abrahamic Faith so the Western World is quite naive of its key tenets. So here is Hinduism in a nut shell:

1. Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world.

2. No where is it written in Hinduism that we should be converting people and we do not actively do so. So if you meet white people who are Hindu, its because they chose it willingly. You will never really see some brown man running around saying "have you heard the truth from our god". No it is quite the passive religion when it comes to converts.

3. The term for one who follows the tenets of Hinduism is called a Hindu. Not Hindi. Holy crap, Hindi is a language for crying out loud. Hindu and Hindi are not the same thing. If you say Hindi while describing my religion, you are quite ignorant and may sound stupid. I am sorry. Just saying.

4. We are not a polytheistic religion. Think about our demigods as Catholics' saints. There is one power in our religion. His name is Braman. Similar to the might of Allah or Christ or Jehova. But we manifest his energy in idols so that one day you will be able to see that God is everywhere.

5. God to us everything. It is empathy. It is nature. It is love. It is music. Everything on earth is holy. Even those we consider evil. They make poor decisions, but they are not bad people. That is why there is no such thing as Hell in Hinduism. There is a perpetual cycle of life and death(reincarnation)until one attains moksha. Moksha is bliss and eternal rest. The path to enlightenment is not linear like Abrahamic faiths. You can attain moksha through bhakti or devotion, tantra (yes this is a sexual way to attain moksha. You harness physical desire until you tire it out) or through meditation. These are just some of the ways.

6. There are so many different levels in Hinduism. It begins with idol worship. The final battle of Hinduism is to look at your religion and denounce its very existence and say that God was always within us and feel it.

7. There are many holidays in Hinduism. One includes Diwali. This holiday is the celebration of lights and we light candles, a symbol for knowledge.

8. We have several texts in Hinduism and it is a religion full of knowledge. Did you know that the Pythagorean is found in the Brama Sutra written by Bramacharaya. In Hinduism since everything is holy, math described in religion is not a weird sight. There are several holy books. Thousands. Some of the main ones include the Vedas. These are instructions for life. The Upanishads, famous philosophical discussions between teacher and student, and the Gita, a beautiful narrative about the complexities that are actually simplicities in life.

There is so much more in Hinduism and I hope this has interested you to look into Hinduism and want to know more. Hinduism is one of those religions that have stood the tests of time because of its lack of demand on conversion in my opinion. People have been attracted to it by its strong principles that are so fluid and resonate beautifully. If you are still interested, here is a really cool video to understand what Hinduism is. Nothing is wrong with being ignorant about Hinduism. Its cool that you ask and are interested in it.
This is on reincarnation

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reflection #11

I was a little perturbed after Thursday’s class. When the initial question was posed, “what is wealth” we immediately jumped to monetary gains and material wealth. Yet ‘wealth’ is an ambiguous word that encompasses more than just that. One can have a wealth of spirituality, of goodness of kindness and many more. Most importantly, they can be dirt poor while wealthy as can be.

I’m not trying to be the ‘kumbaya’ type by bringing to light these examples of happiness and good heartedness. Merely, I am pointing out that wealth is more than money. It’s a shame that in our world today, a person’s prosperity is measured monetarily. Whether we admit it or not, one of our first judgments upon meeting a new person is the way they dress, where they come from and how they act which invariably leads to their social status. Our world has progressed in such a way where it is difficult to judge a person’s wealth based off of their actions instead of capital. There are various ethnic tribes around the world who do not have much money. Instead, they measure a person’s wealth and status based off of how much they contribute to the community through other means, through charity and kindness. One who does this is attributed to being “rich” in spirit and is regarded well.

I wish, for our sakes, that we could be a bit more like these tribes. If we become less materialistic and money-based, I think we would be able to appreciate what we have more and understand the hardships of those who aren’t as ‘wealthy.’

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is a Single Super-National Organization a Plausible Outcome of Growing Economic Globalization?

Although the current state of economic globalization makes creating a single super-national integration potentially successful, it is certainly not the only viable mode of political and economic structure. It is far more likely, however, that the current economic and political powers will make every effort to retain their sovereignty, meaning that there are other, more plausible, world political and economic structures that may develop in the near future, before any singe super-national organization.

Unless the proposed super-national organization would allow the previous economic powers to retain significant control over the world market as member states, it is unlikely that these powerful states would give up their current role in the international system in favor of modest economic benefits, which when compared with smaller member states, would begin to upset the previous balance of power, potentially threatening the sovereignty of these more powerful states. Although, a single universal super-national economic and political organization is unlikely, smaller super-national integrations of economically less powerful states is a definitely possibility. As the economic superpowers become more prominent, smaller states will likely band together to create a small super-national integration to balance against the more politically and economically powerful state actors. These small economic organizations of states will, however, likely remain relatively small because any state more powerful than the union will resist membership and if a super-national organization becomes powerful enough to integrate all of the world's state actors, its power structure will likely resemble that of the European Union, where certain more powerful state actors, such as France and Germany, begin to dictate the actions of the organization and would likely appose the inclusion of a state that could threaten their role as dominant powers in the super-national organization, limiting the scope of expansion. Therefore, although the creation of small super-national organizations for the purpose of balancing against the world's economic powers is possible, the expansion of these super-national economic and political institutions to integrate the world's state actors is unlikely.

Supernational Integration

After decades of various forms of globalization, whether through soccer, TV or arguably Facebook, we have reached a point where we have become mixed together. No longer are Americans exclusively Americans and Chinese solely Chinese. Instead, we have become an interacting mass. Rather than becoming more and more dispersed, we have become progressively more one. This said, in order to achieve organization, we can no longer rely on organization individually. It has become a joint, or supernational, process.

To take a modern day example, look at the EU and the development of the Euro as a means to integrate Europe. With the Euro, individual states who adopted this new monetary form lost their unique versions of currency. But with that came a more united Europe, a more globalized Europe. Nations were able to compare on broader levels, and thus reconstruct their identity. The social decisions that the EU made to enforce the Euro shaped the nations’ identities rather than the natural flow of politics. This form of ‘supernational integration’ was more of a liberalist approach for it was focused more on the greater good as opposed to the survival of each state.

From this, it is only natural that the integration would take place on an international scale. It would be impossible to mix internationally on national terms. This is not to say that we are limited to realist or liberalist actions. It can be a mixture of both. Supernational integration could take the form of a military invasion or diplomatic meetings. It’s an ambiguous term that is left in the hands of each nation. Depending on the nation’s identity, each would respond differently. For example, there’s a higher chance Afghanistan would opt for a hard power tactic as opposed to Norway who would leave their military be and opt for soft power. Thus, depending on the nation, each response would be different.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Rally to Restore Sanity: For the politically moderate or apathetic?

I understand that the purpose of last weekend's “Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear)”, apart from providing some comedic relief, was to make the existence of the nation's moderates known, however, what I witnessed around me when the National Anthem was performed was not only disheartening, but confusing. I saw not the respect I had expected from a large group of politically moderate individuals, but rather a blinding show of apathy. Very few removed their hats and even fewer placed their hands over their hearts. I further witnessed multiple groups of “politically moderate” individuals completely ignore the anthem and continue with their conversations. Don't get me wrong, if you actively choose to not participate in recognizing the National Anthem to make a political statement, that's your First Amendment right, however, considering the fact that this rally was created to appeal to moderates, I find it incredibly difficult to believe that every individual who did not take off their hat or failed to stop their conversation and show some respect was doing it to make a statement. This, in my mind, leaves only simple apathy as an explanation. Although apathy may be the easiest way to stay sane in a strong two party system, it's also a dangerous characteristic to possess. The last thing I want, is for the term “politically moderate” to synonymous with “apathetic”. To me that would be a one way ticket to being placed into that significant majority of non-voters and consequently ignored by our representatives. Therefore, the next time you are a witness to the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, or any other simple gesture of respect for the United States, at the very least, please, stand up a little straighter and look like you give a damn about the welfare of not just our state, but our nation.