Monday, December 6, 2010

Final Reflection

World Politics: a subject that holds no inclination towards finality, a fact that made SIS-105 the most energetic and rewarding class of the semester and arguable of my academic career. To be fair, I was excited for this class when disembarking the airplane at Reagan National, however for very different, almost dichotomous, reasons. I entered class on the first day expecting to experience a course dedicated to analyzing and exploring current events and recent history for the ultimate goal of forming conclusions about the current world political system. Neither English nor French can express how inspiring or exciting it was to be wrong!

Never could I have predicted my participation in a forum that lends itself so well to intellectual and respectful debate, as well as thought provoking and engaging discussions. Although Professor Jackson deserves a significant amount of credit for creating the environment that has produced such piquant discourse, I also owe considerable thanks to my peers. From Christian's intensely realist mind, to Priyanka's culturally sensitive heart, to Aubrey's astutely perspicuous observations, to Tom's refreshingly rational arguments, I found myself savoring the captivating rhetoric, controversial moments, and intellectually riveting discussions that made up SIS-105. Although the course has concluded, the subject and my passion for it has not, and I hope that our intellectually stimulating discussions continue to exist outside of the classroom as we all attempt to develop more than a surface understanding of the realm of world politics.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

El Comienzo: The beggining

I remember how confident I was on my first World Politics class. I was ready for this. I heard that this class was difficult. I knew that it would challenge what I knew about power politics. But thats ok, I thought. I knew Hubert Spencer and Kant. I knew what the meaning of humanity was. It was empathy. Empathy is universal. Simple. Done. I had all the jargon. But then classes began. I found my match: Christian T.R Cavendar. We were the mirror opposite. You see, I have always been Panglossian about humanity. To me, humanity is empathy. But he saw things differently. He saw humanity as quite the opposite. I could hold up. I understood the twists and turns in his logic. I was confident about my views. I had history to back me up: the zapatistas, philosophy, acts of kindness scrolled into our veins.

But then, midway in the semester, we read Todorov, and everything I prided myself on fell apart. It wasn't all at once. Little by little, my opinions were being defaced like limestone. Questions about poverty and sovereignty made me think, but that haunting quote on page 250 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 was the last straw. Then what is culture? Was it worth preserving? And what of poverty? What of those in Chiapas? A horticultural society is being disrupted by NGOs coming in and telling them that they are poverty stricken. That their women are not empowered. They disrupt the way of life in the indigenous communities because the indigenous live off less than 2 dollars a day. The NGOs do not realize that the indigenas live off the land. But who cares about the perseverance of indigenous culture? If it is a product of post-colonial guilt, shouldn't we move on? Can't you see that I am more frustrated than before? I have so many questions. The only thing I have truly come to terms with the fact that my academic past and confidence was a product of me having my eyes shut. I used terms that were not even defined yet. And here I am, alone all over again. University College has made me an introvert. The social events, the tensions, the non-political relations on our floor that were in fact political tensions bubbled through. And all I know is that La Malinche and I were always more similar than I could have wanted. I hate it. I do not want to be La Malinche. Who ever wants to be her? I guess it is my shroud now and I must wear it out of obligation. So I shall wear it with pride. Out of the cerebral readings of constructivism and Wendt in the pantomime of bizarre occurrences in my life (Guyana, Generals, Girls, and Gigs), I was able to hold onto the most concrete thing here: Gunperi. I think I would have wilted away had it not been for her. She reminded me why I was here. I was here to learn. Always looking out for me, she is reason I pushed on.

Its been quite the ride for the past semester. Since all has been demolished, there's only one way to go and that is to rebuild. But who ever said that it was bad. It means once I have rediscovered what humanity really means and the meaning of "universality" if there really is one will be strong and resilient to attack. When someone asks me why indigenous people matter, I will be able to tell them. But for now, I know that it just does. Hopefully I will find those answers and be what Todorov deemed as political perfection: the man for whom
the whole world is as a foreign country is perfect. Oh how identity flux has made a mockery of my existence. The only place to go to now is forward.

Espero que la salida sea alegre, y espero no volver jamás. -Frida Kahlo

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reflection #15

A thought struck me during our last class when we were compiling a list of developmental regulations. Instead of this simulation taking place at a school like American University, where international politics holds a heavy emphasis, what if it took place instead at a ‘hippy’ school or a naval academy? How might the order of importance differ? In relation to the environmental category, would environmental regulations be at the top of the list at a school like Hampshire (a small, one would say hippy, school in Massachusetts) rather than here? Because of the differences in individuals at each school, it is only natural that each list would be different. In some terms, I feel that this can be translated to a global scale where each college would be like each nation. Like the fact that there are hundreds of colleges specializing in different fields, there are hundreds of nations with emphases on different aspects of humanity.

This observation reinforces the idea that there can never be one set list of development regulations to be used globally. There are just too many types of people with different cultures and precepts. How can one set list satisfy millions of people in varied countries? Like the simulation, we saw that policies pertaining to Japan are much more advanced and different from those in Venezuela. That is why I believe that there should be a vague base guideline for development (i.e. involving environmental regulations, liberalization of federal direct investment…) but the main details should be left up to the nation. In an ideal world, the government would be wise and moral enough to avoid corruption and view the state from a rational perspective. Since it’s not, one must go to Plan B, which ultimately involves manipulation of guidelines and invariably ends in chaos.

I think this is a problem that is plaguing our world and international relations. States have not yet found a set of regulations that satisfy each sector for we can see the harm that is being done. Collapsing economies (Ireland), abused environments (internationally) and prevalent corruption (Venezuela) are prime examples of failures. Hopefully at some point these segments will mesh in a positive way in order to create balanced lists. When this is accomplished, I can guarantee a global sigh of relief.