Tag Archives: Politics

A Statement of Intent

I am a recent graduate of the University of Washington history and philosophy departments and I am currently preparing to enter into a PhD program. My passion and my goal in life is the improvement of the systems and the institutions that govern our lives and societies. However, knowledge by itself without the experience of practical application is often not very valuable. Conversely, when experience guides decisions and actions the knowledge created is vastly more relevant and pertinent. Therefore, I decided to take a year or two away from my academic studies to gain experience and to put what I have learned into practice.

Ultimately, what I would like to do with my time is to work in the community with a non-profit or governmental agency on an issue related to justice. Disenfranchisement and the ability of people to express their agency are two phenomena that nestle at the heart of most issues concerning justice. Much of this I believe exists because of the constriction of lines communication by policies and practices, and because of the fear of interacting with a system that people who are impoverished or who feel disenfranchised find difficult to trust.

I think part of the work that is necessary to overcome these obstacles to justice is assisting people to become knowledgeable about how the current system functions and how they can participate without retribution. Voting is one of the important strategies of participating in the system and expressing agency. Yet, there is often latency between the emergence of an issue, bringing the matter to a vote, and beneficial solutions coming to fruition. Whereas, participating in public meetings both at the government and community levels can often have immediate effects. Yet, there are often issues of accessibility about when the meetings are held and the competing obligations of people who are impoverished, such as, meals and childcare. However, I believe we can easily remedy these kinds of barriers to participation by working with community organizations and elected officials.

Another very important component of an issue of justice is the accurate reporting of facts, trends, conditions, and projections. The first factor is acquiring and consolidating accurate information, which we can then utilize to inform our projections. One aspect of this is historical research and data analysis, and another component is hearing from the members of the communities most impacted. Most situations are complex and have multiple motivating factors or causes. The object of this information gathering should be to identify the real motivations and causes of injustice. The next factor is ensuring that we accurately present this information to those who are responsible for making decisions. As a result of our improving the participation of the people who are often not engaged in governmental activities and who are often the most impacted by injustice, the likelihood that more accurate and complex reports will make it into the record dramatically increases.

I believe the work I have outlined above to be the next steps to the improvement of the systems and the institutions that govern our lives and societies. It is possible that by decreasing the prevalence of disenfranchisement and increasing the ability of people to express their agency that the outcomes of our large bureaucratic system will more accurately represent the disparate and varying lives of the people in our society, thereby increasing the amount of justice experienced. We can only accomplish this work in and with the community and that is why I want to work with a non-profit organization or a governmental agency focused on issues of justice.

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Bridging Community

As it stands now there are approximately 7.3 billion people on the planet who identify with many different religions, nationalities, countries, cultures, economic systems, family structures, political ideologies, and tastes.  The United Nations predicts that by the year 2050 there will be over 9.7 billion people on the earth. To put that figure into perspective because just hearing the difference between seven and nine makes it seem miniscule; that is over eight times the current United States population. People in Seattle, Washington can barely afford their rents as it is now and if we are still following the same supply and demand, ‘invisible hand’ economics that are in effect today, I dread being alive to see the horrendous conditions that are in store for us. It is already being reported that wage gaps this large between the rich and the poor have not been witnessed since the fall of the Roman Empire and it is increasing at an exponential rate.

As if matters were not bad enough with only the population explosion, in addition to that is also the vast environmental degradation and destruction, which is increasingly causing our planet to become uninhabitable. The cumulative impacts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere from our collective consumption of fossil fuels in our combustion vehicles, coal fire power plants, fracking plants, and oil burning are occurring simultaneously with the eradication of our forests that are the natural carbon sinks that could have restored the planetary ecosystem to equilibrium. Thus, instead of there being a fluid and efficient carbon cycle, the carbon our practices are releasing is getting stuck in the atmosphere, our public good, which traps in the heat from our Sun and leads to global warming. Global warming and climate change are natural occurrences, scientists and archeologists have confirmed this unequivocally. However, historically speaking, since the Industrial Revolution began in the 19th Century, human ingenuity has dramatically shifted the rate at which the natural process of climate change is occurring.

The net results stretch from rising sea levels to desertification of once arable land, of which the former is leading to the submersion of many inhabited regions and the latter is leading to famines and wars over limited resources. Furthermore, both are factors in mass migrations and the global apartheid unfolding before our very eyes. Take the migration crisis in Europe for instance, those people are fleeing from war and famine torn regions in the Middle East and Africa, fleeing over both land and water risking dehydration, starvation, death of both themselves and their families, or eternal isolation because those risks are more acceptable in comparison to the conditions they would otherwise suffer. The only difference between them and us is quite honestly, where we were all born and when. Yet, the massive influx of people has caused a panic among the peoples and the governments of the receiving nations who are ‘protecting’ their interests with sanctions, gates, walls, and brute military force to keep the migrators out. Ann Coulter, opening for presidential candidate Donald Trump at a convention said: “I love the idea of the Great Wall of Trump. I want to have a two drink minimum. Make it a big worldwide tourist attraction and every day, live drone shows whenever anyone tries to cross the border.” She was talking about making a spectacle of killing people—in this case from Mexico—looking to improve their life-conditions and life-chances, and these are Americans that we are talking about, and people who want to be at the head of the United States, no less. So, it is not the case that the issue is only something that happens abroad. Notwithstanding where it occurs, this is what is called, Feudal Privilege, because there is nothing that any of us did prior to any of our being born that justifies any of us possessing access to the necessities for life while others do not, and yet, we do possess those necessities, nonetheless. Our borders are symbolic extensions of the castle walls that once separated the affluent from the peasant, what was once called a birth right.

Making the situation even more complicated is the fact that the environmental degradation and destruction that is leading to these mass migrations from the less affluent nations and states, is a direct result of the practices of the more affluent nations. In the United States, based on our consumption rates cumulatively, it would take four and a half entire earth’s worth of resources to fulfill the demand if everyone on the planet today in all the states consumed as US citizens do. That is, US citizens have a carbon footprint of four and a half earths, while those in less affluent regions, like much of the African continent has a carbon footprint of less than one earth. Thereby resting the responsibility for the increased rate of global warming and climate change causing the rising tides and famines squarely in the hands of those from the more affluent nations; primarily, Western Civilization, where many of the migrators are seeking refuge and are being barred access to. Furthermore, at the moment we are only talking about millions of people migrating, and the people and governments from the more affluent nations are in a panic. However, this is nothing compared to the over two billion increase in population projected for 2050 while the environmental ecosystem collapse is exacerbated at the same time.

This is a huge problem, I know. A problem so large that it does not seem like there is a solution to it. But I think the heart of the issue resides within our definition of community: “A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.”  More important than this characteristic of the definition of community, is that implicit in the definition and the common understanding of the concept is the multiplicity of communities as being distinct from one another, or in other words, different or separate from each other. And therein is the crux of the problem. This notion of distinctness is what maintains the separation between the sexes, and genders, between the social-construction of races, ethnicities, nationalities—which is different from the arbitrary political boundaries—of people, between states, social classes, and so forth.  The notion of distinctness is what was at the foundation of slavery, the Jim Crow segregation that led to the Civil Rights Era of the mid-20th Century and to the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the New Jim Crow and state sanctioned violence in the form of police brutality. Inherent in racism is the notion of distinctness and scientific racism gave it fangs. Social Darwinism and the concept of “survival of the fittest” are both laden with the notion of distinctness and provide a quasi, but fallacious justification for acting on that distinctness.

We are inundated with this notion of distinctness each and every time we are told that we are individuals and that we have to achieve on our own.  Our society and our complete set of ideologies are designed to isolate people from one another, to put us into competition, and to set us at odds with each other. Take the grading system for example, instead of the entire class being graded collectively on the achievements of the group, individuals are rewarded or punished for their own merits. This is the case even though they all participate in the class collectively and it provides the incentive for students not to have as heightened of an interest in assisting their fellow classmates. It’s as if we were to somehow conceive of ourselves as something other than individuals that our personal identities would somehow dissolve into nothingness, but I believe this to be an unjustifiable fear. Nonetheless, as a result of this distinctness and individuality, we humans love to categorize ourselves; black, white, rich, poor, tall, short, German, Peruvian, smart, ignorant, man, woman, felon, law abiding citizen, alien, but therein between the categories is where most of the strife among and “between” us emerges.   Because with the distinctions comes an arbitrary system of hierarchical valuations and judgments that result in hyperbole and humiliations that provide reasons for segregation and delineation.

This individualistic conception destroys our relationships with our selves, other people and with the earth, of which we are not truly separate.  If there was not an earth, then humans as we understand our selves could not exist. The earth on the other hand, existed long before the human species and will most likely exist long after our species has vanished. Relationships are the key to community and to healing the ills of our civilization. Relation is the characteristic that is missing from the definition of community and culture, which emerges within and through a community, as a strategy for survival and as such, it is utterly dependent upon relationships. The reality is that we can do nothing alone and that there is no such thing as individuality. The words “alone” and “individual” are components of a language, that by its very definition necessitates a relationship because for communication to exist at least two parties must agree that a particular symbol will have a particular meaning that is transmittable. That is a relationship and without it there could be no culture to transmit to subsequent generations; there would be no commerce, no morality, no religion if there no people who formed instructional relationships with us. By corollary, there would be no societies, no cities, no schools, no families, and no identities. Relationships are at the core of everything it means to be human as we currently understand ourselves to be.

Our first relationship is with ourselves, but that relationship can only be understood and fully appreciated in the context of every other human that exists and that has ever existed, and on the context of the earth upon which we exist and rely with all the millions of other species. The individual does not exist in isolation, the individual is not a microcosm, but exists in relation to everything else that exists.  John Donne said it best and most simply; “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” Until this is understood there can be no relationship with ourselves because we do not fully grasp who we truly are. And if we do not know who we are, then we cannot transmit ourselves to another because we cannot convey a concept we do not fully comprehend. Thus, until we know ourselves, we cannot have relationships with other human beings, who in essence are of us and we are also of them. And lastly, without that comprehension and feeling, then there can be no relationship with the earth, which connects and sustains us all. This is how the ideology of individualism corrupts and destroys our relationships.

We have to expand our sense of community to recognize, appreciate, and incorporate the entire planet and all the things that exist upon it and in relation to it. Only then, will something like the atmosphere, a public good, something that we all own, have claim to, and are part of, become something that we cherish and love enough not to destroy. Only when we understand that the rainforest are not distinct from us, will we acknowledge that destroying them is in reality, destroying ourselves. Only when we comprehend that all the people on the planet are part of us and that the arbitrary valuations and judgments we currently attribute to them is wrong, will we begin to acknowledge the injustice of segregation and apartheid, murder and isolation. Much like the contemporary interpretation of the identity of a person can exist within the colloquial sense of a community, so too, can identity groups exist within this expanded conception of community. In fact, these identity groups are vital to the evolution of our culture and must exist, because the supposition that there is but one community does not presuppose the presence of a negative peace, which is the absence of conflict, but a positive peace in which the necessary tension required for growth and stimulation flourishes. That is the essence of relationships: gravitational and repulsive forces that continuously interact to maintain balance and harmony in relation to everything else that exists.

If we want to bridge communities and to foster a peace full of symbiotic mutually beneficial relations, then it is necessary to recognize that there is only one community and category that is of any import, the Human Identity Group within the Community of the Earth.

“The World We Want” by Sarra Tekola & Renaissance (((Music Video)))

And this is the video that we put together. Initially, it began as a project for a competition at the University of Washington, and although, it will still be submitted, as we began constructing the project we realized the potential for helping to make a real difference. We are both seniors at the UW, both musically inclined, both activists with a heart fro justice and a sustainable planet. Everything just fit together. I am also a photographer, videographer, producer, studio technician, poet, spoken word artist, and so much more. So, in the short time period we had to get this accomplished, I threw everything I had into this with Sarra, including the kitchen sink. It was simultaneously, both the hardest and most rewarding project that I have ever been part of.

Climate Change is all the more pressing at this particular junction in time, in Seattle specifically because Shell Oil is planning to bring a seafaring oil rig through Seattle’s harbor, which will serve as a lay-station as it forges its way to the arctic to drill for oil. If this occurs, then the dreaded two degrees of change the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 360, Rising Tide, and a host of others have been warning about will be crossed. This will doom the planet to catastrophic failure. Hence, the “Draw The Line” logo. We are standing up and yelling NO!!!

We hope that this song and video will cause you to consider what is happening and to foster some creativity on your part to learn more if you are not already hip to the situation.

Peace & Love

~Renaissance

Further Readings:

We Have A World to Win written by Jess Spear

Rude Awakening written by Renaissance

The Capitalist Dilemma written by Renaissance

“Get to the Truth” by Renaissance the Poet (New Music)

Lyrics:

Verse # 1
Why’s it such a mystery? The mister be a fiend.
The man was out for blood but now you’re bleedin at the seams.
Sometimes it’s hard to see but the truth is there to read.
If you dare to look inside a book you can’t avoid the scheme.
Don’t know what they taught you but you know they bound to lock you.
In a cell until they pop you and you’ve given up what I do
Speakin on survival, rival all they propaganda
These Simple Politicians always lackin speech with candor
Never see their motives, Trojans claim a heart of gold
Shouting to the masses but their actions have been sold
To the highest bidder, can we hold them to their word?
Hell no…. cuz that would be absurd!!!
At least from their perspective, only answer to a vote
Democracy, hypocrisy hard it’s to keep afloat
While wading through the lies, so thick you have to choke
Slavery not history, the rope’s around our throat.

Chorus

Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Verse # 2
The gravest lie conceived still pervades undefeated
&keeps the people thinking that a drive within is needed
Seeded in for centuries its presence now benign
Cliché in a sense, got us livin by this line
Feelin, peelin back the worth inside the heart of men
Like a fundamental error has been locked within our skin
it’ss been the purview to exploit this ignorance
While we’re strugglin for dollars but we can’t afford our rents
Why can’t you be like Lincoln and make yourself from nothin?-
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and hit the ground runnin
When it’s the American Dream and the America Way
To start from nothing and end gettin paid!!!
But what they don’t tell you, is it ain’t that way
The aristocracy got us a rat in a maze
Based on where you’re born they tell you where you’re goin
Whether be to college or on the block hoein

Chorus
Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Verse # 3
They want us to believe, that our voice really matters
But in truth, ya’ll, they want us all scattered
They want us in a frenzy and to fight one another
They want us ignorant to what they’re doin to our brothers
They don’t want us to bind and to build our strength together
What they want, is for us scrounge the gutter
Pessimistic maybe, till you been in the books
And you see stratification and how it really looks
Till you see the way that money begets money
And how tyrants are made by political funding
It’s a conundrum, no wonder, people have given up
Trying to see through the lies when we got to earn a buck
Ain’t left us no time to dig through policy
And understand political posturing
But lies without grounds tend to fall through the cracks
And through the cracks we’ll see the truth at last

Chorus

Get to the Truth
What they teachin ain’t right
Get to the Truth
Out the Prison of Your mind
Get to the Truth
& Open your third eye
Gettin to the Truth
Only way to beat the lie

Rude Awakening

I had a rude awakening a few weeks ago. It probably started some time during the last school year, but it came to a head a few weeks ago. The reality of, what I considered at the time, to be a bleak future sunk in and it was like a huge Linus cloud decided to rain all over my parade. I decided to go to school to learn how to be an effective leader to help our civilization become sustainable, just, equitable, fair and all the other normative and evaluative qualities necessary to ensure not only survival of our species, but a good quality of life as well. Therein lays the issue because in order to figure a way out of the injustices that our civilization suffers, one must first understand those injustices. It makes no sense to attempt to address a problem before the problem is fully understood because then more problems are likely to be created in the process. At least that is the logic behind why I decided to major in both History and Philosophy.

As I began to learn about all of the injustices that are currently occurring to people all over the planet and even to the planet itself, which in turn visits injustice upon the marginalized communities or our planet, but then I also see this pattern repeatedly played out throughout history. Concomitantly, I also discover the stories of several figures who have attempted to inform many leaders and populations throughout time of the dire consequences of particular policies to little avail. Sure, they may have had some success; African Americans are no longer slaves and Women have earned the right to vote in most societies. These examples are particularly acute and salient being an African American male in the United States. However, by simply grazing through one introduction a person can become acquainted with a new form of Jim Crow and legalized slavery that reveals that African Americans are still not truly free of the oppressive nature of the system, but rather, that it has only taken on another form. Just as important, while women can vote, they are still treated as second class citizens and are consistently paid only 3/4 that of men, even when they do the same jobs, in the same companies, have comparable educations and levels of outputs; the only difference is their genders. So, while on the surface it appears that success have been made in terms of justice, the situation is really just rearranged to limit power in some other less obvious manner and people are still oppressed and suppressed and thus, suffer from injustice.

In the past, when a society or civilization was facing similar crises, the collapse of their system, it did not also include the collapse of every civilization on the planet, and possible the destruction of the planet itself. This is not the case in the world we live in today with the set of circumstances that we are currently confronting. Yet, instead of the people coming together to address the problems we are pulling further apart from one another, stratifying and polarizing our societies both internally and between societies themselves. This is only exacerbating the problems and factors that led to the crises in the first place. I am referring specifically to the competition for the acquisition and control of limited resources and land, wherein this competition is driving a wedge between those with access and control of resources and those without. This is of course completely consistent with the ideology of conquest and by corollary, capitalism. However, this is inconsistent with any theory of justice unless one can somehow manage to make the successful claim that the powerful controlling the resources is somehow for the benefit of those who are not in control of the resources. For this claim to be substantiated though, it would have to be shown that the people who are not in control of the resources are actually being benefitted, and the evidence shows that it is quite the contrary. Poverty and famines are rampant throughout the non-industrial regions of the world, the wars fought for the control of these resources continue to murder thousands of innocent people, and those who stand in opposition to this system are systematically silenced and in some extreme cases are removed.

To make matters even worse, the environment we depend on for our survival is being damaged to the point that it is about to cross the threshold of repair. This means, that even if somehow we as a civilization we able to cease all our wars, provide food for all those who need it and to redistribute the wealth into a manner that is more equitable, that if the practices we currently employ in terms of production are not changed, that we will still perish. This drastic change requires that the way of life and standard of living that most of the industrialized and post-industrialized regions of the planet will be irrevocably altered, and most likely decreased. This proposition in itself is contradictory to human nature, at least as we understand because it means that people will have to make an active choice to harm themselves or alternatively, that a governmental institution imposes these alterations on them. In either case, this will prove to be problematic.

On the one hand, people tend to act in their own immediate self-interests. This is especially the case in industrial and post-industrial societies and is extreme in the United States where people tend not to be socialized to sacrifice of themselves for the greater good. For most people it is almost nearly impossible to submit to a diminished existence today for a better future for their children. They can however, save money today, or suffer through a college education for the hope of their own future benefit, so it must be possible for people to do this for future generations, but as yet, we have not witnessed this occur on a massive enough scale to make a difference in the course that our civilization is on. It seems that the problem lays in the situation that has been set up, that people can stay off the immediate benefit for their own future benefit, but once they are no longer the one receiving the benefit a road block is encountered and the suffering of future generations is discounted. Thus, it does not seem likely that this level of change will occur voluntarily unless something very paramount occurs to encourage people to institute this type of move on their own or it is somehow made to benefit them in the near future.

On the other hand, though governments do have the power to impose such a dramatic change in the lives of the people that they govern, but not only would this be political suicide for any pundit that proposes it, but we would likely experience a global civil war. The justification for these claims follows directly from the previous discussion of self-interests. When the people see that their self-interests are not being served and their own existence is being discounted for future generations civil unrest will emerge. If the people have the power to impeach, then this is the likely outcome, which will subsequently be followed a repeal of any enactment the former government instituted. If they do not have the power to impeach, then the most likely outcome is an internal implosion as civil war erupts. If this outcome seems to be overstating the point and reaching beyond the premises, then all one has to do is acknowledge that the corporations, who are the ones controlling the resources and land are also in control of vast mercenary armies. Once this is acknowledged, then it will become apparent that if their claim to control of those resources is subverted that they will be the ones following their ideological bend and leading the revolt.

In either case, it is certain that there is an uphill battle when we are addressing the environmental crises that we are confronting as a civilization. It is a fact that the planet is warming and it is also a fact that much of the warming is human caused. This means that our cumulative use of fossil fuel and coal and nuclear power because of our civilization’s dependency on energy to function at a consistent standard of living is destroying the planet. It is at the very least, destroying the conditions that make life for humans, and creatures like humans possible. There are many options on the table that address many of the issues which have already been mentioned, but nonetheless, the harm that is requisite cannot be fully overcome, so there is pushback against any of it. Yet, while there is inaction because those in industrial and post-industrial societies do not want to manage a reduced standard of living for a period of time, those who are not privileged enough to live in those societies are suffering today. It also means, that as the polar icecaps melt because the planet is warming that the oceans will continue to rise and many of the coastal and island regions will soon be uninhabitable.

Many of these island regions are home to marginalized groups of people and as such do not have the resources necessary to defend themselves. This alone reveals that the actions of those in control of the resources are not managing the system so as to provide benefit to those not in control of the resource. Furthermore, it reveals that a harm is being done to these marginalized groups of people, so those, myself included, are blameworthy and responsible for this harm; however, unintended it may be claimed to be.

Nothing about these circumstances is consistent with utilitarianism, libertarianism, virtue ethics, deontology or any moral framework that I have thus far encountered. Utilitarianism is all about the Greatest Happiness Principle and provided the maximum benefit to the majority. However, the actions of the many now are making harm for the many in the future and that is something that is inconsistent with the calculus. Libertarianism is all about self-interests, but only insofar as no harm is being done. However, are harm is clearly being done now and will continue to escalate if our behaviors do not change. In virtue ethics, what is proposed is to considered what the virtuous person would do given the constraints of any particular situation in accordance with the flourishing of the human society. However, as I have clearly identified, the actions of our civilization are contradictory to the flourishing of our society. And lastly, deontology is focused on rules and the only rule that is necessary to point to is that it is wrong to cause unjust harm. That of itself reveals a contradiction and makes the behaviors of this civilization inconsistent with the moral framework. But, furthermore it also suggests that people should not be used as mere means, and if we are subjecting not only the marginalized groups of people today but also future generations to harm for our own personal benefit, then this also make the actions inconsistent with deontological constraints. Thus, in consideration of any moral constraints, the behaviors of our civilization are immoral, and as such are unjust.

Thus, we come back to the Linus cloud that hovered above my head pouring down onto my soul threatening to smite my fire. I began to think that what I am learning and the path that I have identified is correct for my life is pointless. I forgot that the logic of the plan is to first, understand the situation before I begin to devise a solution to the problems, so that we do not create unintended problems in the process. Well, I am learning about the problems we are currently confronting, as well as, the problems that we face attempting to solve the original set of problems. Although, addressing the concerns of the future does seem bleak, it is not without hope.  The most important thing that I or anyone else can do right now is to inform ourselves and to inform those around us about the reality of our circumstances. Then and only then, can we devise a plan of action together because it will require all of us to address these problems. Only together can we make this world more sustainable, just, equitable, fair and all the other normative and evaluative qualities necessary to ensure not only the survival of our species, but a good quality of life for everyone and all the species we share this planet with

Research Project in Greece this Summer

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This summer, I will be living in Athens doing research on immigration by performing interviews of people, observing their behavior and interacting with them in stores, parks, buses, schools, restaurants, cafes, hotels, etc., which are many of the principal places where culture or conflict emerges.

So, for the most part this will be qualitative research. However, to place this research into the proper context I will also be analyzing the historical and economic impacts that immigration has had on the people in Greece, so it will have a qualitative aspect to it as well.

But the overall project will be qualitative in nature.

The interviews will entail asking difficult, politically sensitive and emotional charged questions that get to the heart of the immigration issues people are confronting.

My studies into the ethics of aid, assistance, and social contracts have revealed that in order to be of any assistance to people who are suffering in other countries, or in this country for that matter, it is imperative for me to understand the factors that have helped to shape and continue to influence the development of their identities and circumstances.

My background with human rights and international justice issues will be highly useful because the forced migrations and forced segregation that people are subject to are complex moral and ethical issues that are fused with politics and conceptions of justice.

By ignoring such factors, there is a potential to do more harm than good.

The ethnographic research of the project will help us to discover what the people, which includes both the migrants to and the citizens of Greece themselves believe shape their identities, the composition of the circumstances they face, what they consider just, permissible and impermissible, and what obligations they believe humans they have to one another.

Given that all of these factors contribute to the outcomes of any complex situation, especially one as sensitive as immigration during economically challenging times, it then becomes necessary to consolidate political, economic, and historical data, as well as, the qualitative data collected from individuals to correctly ascertain the development and constraints of that situation.

This is what I hope to accomplish, or at least begin while studying abroad in Greece this summer.

 

 

For more information on Immigration, Diaspora and Apartheid you can follow the link below: 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

The Significance of “Black Friday”

One of the coolest gifts of being in school is that I get to learn about our world, what we have done, what we are doing, and what we have the capacity to do as human beings. I think one of the freshest aspects of studying history is that I have the opportunity to learn facts and concepts that have shaped our civilization. And then as a cap to all of that, I have been granted the privilege to evaluate that information and those assertions with my studies of philosophy, whereby I am learning how to use and design moral frameworks from which I can evaluate the implications of what has been done and what “should” be done in the future in terms of what is justified and what is obligated of human beings; and I can base my interpretations in historical fact.

Last night I came across term Black Friday in my history textbook; “A History of the Modern Middle East” (William L. Cleveland, 2013), and it was a tragic scene in Iranian history. And before I make it seem like this is to present a negative perspective of Iran, or any Middle Eastern country, what I am going to tell you about this event has occurred in some fashion in every culture, nation, state and society that I have studied so far. As it turns out “Black Friday” was a term used to describe the response of Muhammad Reza Shah’s regime to a large mass of unarmed students, workers and other civilians protesting the actions of the regime. On Friday, September 8, 1978 Reza Shah’s regime marched tanks, helicopter gunships, and army into the crowds and killed hundreds of unarmed civilians to quell the protesters and silence them.

After reading that, I questioned when the term “Black Friday” was coined and why because as I am sure most of you are aware of it is associated with the Friday that follows the American holiday Thanksgiving, that occurs on the fourth Thursday of November. (The point of this post is not to call into question the moral implications of that holiday, that will be for a later post.) The contemporary meaning of Black Friday, according to blackfriday.com, since 1924 and the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade, has marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season wherein companies move from the “Red into the Black” a term used to signify an end to making a loss and earning a profit.

I fact-checked those claims with snopes.com and found that the term was coined in 1951, in reference to employees calling in sick to work the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. The site further notes that in the early 1960s in Philadelphia the police termed the traffic problems related to the shopping in the metropolitan district as “Black Friday”. Snopes.com also confirmed the usage of the term that blackfriday.com mentioned in regard to it being the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Snopes.com however, discredited the claim that “Black Friday” was a term coined to descibe a special business day for the selling of slaves in the 19th Century.

However, in all of this research, I did not see any reference to what occurred in Iran in 1978 under the rule of Reza Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty. My initial concern was that here in America we could have transmitted a term used to define an atrocity to mean something different, that is actually celebrated and rewarded annually. The transition in the meaning of terms is not something that is unheard of. Many of us in the United States are either familiar with or use the term “A Rule of Thumb,” to mean a general rule of operation, or in other words a maxim, but most of us do not know where it comes from. Nonetheless, the “Rule of Thumb” refers to the legal rule that if a stick was not wider than the diameter of the husband’s thumb, that he was legally justified in beating his wife with it. This was the grounds for my concern and what motivated my research into the etymology of the term. And I have been able to clear up, that the usage of the term to describe the initiation of the holiday shopping season predates the atrocity in Tehran, Iran by more than ten years.

Before leaving you all, I would like to briefly comment on the significance of the 1978 event, wherein the regime utilized the military to suppress the voices of the people who were expressing discontent. As I mentioned earlier, this is not something that is contained only to Iran, or the Middle East. We have to only peer into U.S. history and we will be acquainted with the suppression of African Americans during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, who were voicing dissent and the police riot guards were called in to suppress them. Or more recently, when the protesters participating in the Occupy movement were suppressed to start to form an idea that suppression of dissent is not something that only happens outside of the United States, or is contained to the distant past.

As citizens of this world, no matter what country we live in, whether it is a democratic state or it is hierarchical, or its state government is based on the observance of religion, or a monarch; the consistent pattern is that when the voice of dissent is suppressed it lead to outcomes in that nation or state that are undesirable to population as a whole. Sometime suppression is more implicit than armed forces marching into the metropolitan area of a city and murdering hundreds of civilians. One type of power concerns the control of the agenda. This is important because even in a democratic society wherein the people are “allowed” to have a voice, if the agenda of what they can voice an opinion about is constrained, then those in power with the motivation to protect that power can situation that agenda to ensure that the issues that most threaten their position are never brought up to vote upon.

The United States is largely a consumer society that bases much of identity in Spending Power or the prestige that comes from possessing such power. Furthermore, in a society wherein Conspicuous Consumption, which signifies that status symbols (clothes, cars, watches, etc..) are used to delineate social class and thus power, the citizens of such a society have a vulnerability that can be exploited by those in power. To connect this to the previous ideas of the suppression of dissenting voices and controlling the agenda, when the elites can focus the populace’s attention on consumerism, attaching their self-worth to how much they can buy (Social Trappings), they can effectively control the agenda. If this line of reasoning is accurate, then the citizens of the United States are systematically having their dissenting voices suppressed by consumerism.

So, while it may not the case that the term “Black Friday” was explicitly designed and coined to represent the oppression of people and the suppression of dissenting voices, it is nonetheless clear that an argument can be made to support the claim our voice of dissent can be suppressed by such means.

And to think, that all of this thought came from one paragraph in my history textbook… Yeah, I love school. I decided to go to school to get an education and what has occurred is that it has changed the way I think about the world. I am now being armed with the skills and the knowledge to evaluate the world we live in. And this is precisely the reason that I decided to go to school.

http://blackfriday.com/pages/black-friday-history

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/thanksgiving/blackfriday.asp

“A History The Modern Middle East” by William L. Cleveland; 2013