Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflection On A Theme

The trip to PEPFAR and the accompanying presentation beforehand enabled me to form a good idea of the issue as a whole. After the blunt speech used in the presentation the PEPFAR one seemed incredibly sugar coated. The PEPFAR presentation and following Q&A session had more sugar then a beignet. However, my disappointment at not hearing her speak frankly about the issue was coupled with my utmost amazement at her PR skills. She skirted around the underlying issues in questions with the nimbleness of a mongoose. I can only dream of having that sort of talent.

However, the two presentations did make something incredibly clear; without clean water readily available all the efforts to help those infected with AIDS are extreme dampened. Water transmits so many diseases that could prove deadly for anyone with a weakened immune system that it seems unreasonable the disproportionate amount of funding we provide for anti-AID efforts rather then efforts to provide clean water. This was something I believe in before the presentation but I feel that all the information I received that day only strengthens the argument.<

Also, seeing the amount of funding per country was somewhat depressing. Europe has taken on such an isolationist vibe lately. I understand it, I even empathize with why they’re doing it but at a certain point they really just need to step up to the plate. (Oh snap, baseball metaphor!) I believe that the US should focus its diplomatic efforts to get the EU member states to engage more vigorously in humanitarian action abroad. Not only would successful cooperation help millions in need but it would also help foster a better cross-pond relationship. By building a foundation of peaceful cooperative humanitarian operations abroad the US would find these states more open to military cooperation for humanitarian missions.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflecting on The Game of Globalization

How Soccer Explains the World (Foer) was a rather insightful theory about the process of globalization. It took a main cultural force (futbol/soccer), and by tracking its history and its effects on nations, it exposed several universal themes: the need for identity, the widespread manipulation in political/economic systems, the commercialism of a trend, the qualms of racism, and the power of nationalism.

The soccer analogy is most interesting because Foer chose a sport. He did not choose an economic market or a good from said market. He did not choose a type of music, an article of clothing, etc. This was intentional. The field of globalization is as vast in opportunity as the number of plays (and players) in a match. However, being a “sport,” it has cycles of popularity. Being a “sport,” it can be taken for granted, as Arkan’s wife, Ceca (powerful political/soccer “gang” leaders of Serbia), pleaded ignorance: “This is a business, a game. Nothing more” (31).

Yet, soccer is something more. The passions felt by ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic groups were in the name of nationalism. In our class discussion, we pondered whether religion or secular nationalism was “better.” If they are in the name of the state, I believe that both can be just as beneficial and just as strong; it is up to an individual culture to decide which dominates. For example, in the Irish chapter, the soccer/political conflict was enflamed by the Protestant Reformation. Yet, the schism of the sects helped the country more than hurting it: “ethnic hatred makes good business sense” (39). Even more, the Jewish and Iranian/Muslim cultures really struck me because their religious/secular pride was one in the same because it was rooted in heritage.

Only two chapters after Foer’s admirable Barcelona (which, despite its tolerance of “political energies . . . [as] a harmless practice,” [205], seemed too ideal, coherent and “yuppie” in my opinion, [194]) came the chapter I was waiting for: the U.S. and nationalism. Yet, it was rather an anti-climax with anti-nationalism (anti-globalization). Though Foer’s book was written in 2004, I do believe that the U.S. is resisting to “get with the rest of the world’s program,” partially due to its factions between globalization/“American exceptionalism” (245). It must be difficult to tie together a country that is united by a broad concept: freedom. We are free to be, whether first or 100th generation, and the individual rules. This concept seemed to spill over into the HIV/AIDS lab:
1. We cannot agree that HIV/AIDS is a serious cause and may need more allocation of funds.
2. Our predominance in other countries seems to be just that, “dominance,” without much faith in/coordination with the local governments. (note: The possibilities of one country taking advantage of another for profit really bother me, as in the movie, The Constant Gardener.)
3. On a side note, I would be curious to compare UNAIDS with PEPFAR.

Oh, globalization, you are such a tricky matter! I am looking forward to exploring it.

The Way This Week Made Me feel

This past week I found myself asking the question, "How have all these professionals, scholars, and successful people made it through college?"Most of the things I read are not interesting to me, but professors tell me they are so important in my learning process. How Soccer Explains the World was not my favorite book. I actually found it REALLY hard to read without falling asleep. During the class discussion, I did not have a lot of comments, but I felt my addition to the discussion was appropriate. The U.S is a place where disagreement is acceptable. It is essentially a part of what it means to be an American. We have various political parties, protests, interest groups etc. Although we have disagreements and fractions among the people, most express their dissent in ways alternative to violence. We do not use soccer and other sports as a way for citizens to disagree about things of a political nature. While reading I also noticed that many other countries use soccer as a stimulus for their economy and tourism on a global scale. It made me wonder what the U.S's mode of global outreach in order to expand economy and tourism etc.? If you have any answers PLEASE comment :)

Week One Reflection

This week we read and discussed Franklin Foer's book How Soccer Explains the World - An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. During class many things were discussed about the book, but what stood out most  to me was something someone said about halfway through the discussion: that "Teams conglomerate, while beliefs separate." The idea was that while beliefs create divides between groups of people, having a team to root for (whether soccer, or in the case of the U.S, football, baseball, etc) will unite the people in certain areas with a common cause that everyone there can support. Now, in the book, there were examples where this was not always true, such as the chapter about the Rangers and the Celtics: there, the divide in beliefs correlated with the two different teams, and the games only strengthened the rivalry, violence, and hatred that both sides felt for one another. There were, however, cases where that was not so - in the chapter about Iran, the passion for soccer and the team united people despite their beliefs and the regulations of their society. I think that looking at globalization through the eyes of such a popular sport gives a unique perspective on what unites and divides our civilizations. And I really liked the book.

I like how this class is going so far. It is challenging me to think more critically than I did in high school, and to examine different perspectives on world issues and the topics we read about. It is also encouraging me to participate more in class discussions (something I have yet to do...).

In any case, I believe that this class is good for me. And after reading How Soccer Explains the World, I am very much looking forward to the DC United game this weekend.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Wealth of World Politics

     It is true that, “to the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world;” just count the memorabilia dedicated to Lady Gaga or recall the desperation of Thomas Becket towards King Henry II. Such thinking however, though whimsical enough for greeting cards, is dangerous. Its concentration on the famous, fashionable, and filthy rich overshadows the underprivileged, especially in terms of distribution of wealth.
     Distribution of wealth is a tricky matter. There is the capitalist argument that man earns all he owns and the communist side that all should be equal. Yet, maybe the solution lies between the ideologies. For instance, prosperity may not be worth the salary of MLB players (or politicans, etc). Widespread prosperity could have simpler extremes than Affluent-Person-X in a penthouse and Impoverished-Person-Y in a box.
     It all boils down to recognition of basic human rights/dignity. Although money is a powerful tool (for negotiations, to provide the means of much needed resources), it should not be taken for granted. With a bulk of currency in the hands of the few, they seem to hold a superficial power. All must recognize the voices of some that cannot even buy a microphone in which to speak. Money should not be so thoroughly contained within organizations and should instead be transformed into communal actions for the world (i.e. education, housing, etc).
     On another note, Google has been known to have all the answers. So, if one were to Google “football” and receive 796,000,000 hits (“futbol” 287,000,000), and then “AIDS” to bring up 96,100,000 (“healthcare” 120,000,000), does that mean something?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SO...they hate us

Honestly, answering this question was like plucking one gum drop from the gingerbread house. There is so much to choose from that you always feel you should have gotten something else.(Maybe a candy cane or a chocolate bar)I decided to go with something I always ask myself and actually hope to help improve during my future career. I think that the most pressing issue in world politics is improving the United States international image.
(Instead of the U.S being this guy we should try to be this guy)
The United States is a country that is interested in various areas of the world. They venture out in order to improve those areas and provide aid, or in order to gain some sort of resource. They draw up these big plans to improve x and implement y hoping that the citizens in that foreign country will support a new form of government, a new military and police force, new schools etc. Often times these citizens do not want the help of the United States and they mistrust our countries motive.History whispers stories of American ordered assassination of government leaders in other countries, instigating conflicts and more. As a result, instead of U.S efforts to improve many places, the citizens band together to systematically thwart efforts of development. An example of this is the U.S involvement in development efforts in Iraq. I recently read a column by Robert Scheer. In that article he quoted one of Baghdad's top representatives As Hazim al- Araji saying, "There are people from all different parties and sects. We are all carrying the national flag, which is a symbol of unity. And we are all united calling for the withdrawal of Americans." I felt that this was an excellent quote to describe the how deep the hatred of the United States was and is. It was able to unite groups of people that had been fighting for years in Iraq. Because the U.S has been in Iraq for 9 years despite the inability to find WMD, our image in the eyes of other countries, has been tainted.They did not want us there and we did not leave when our search was complete. I've read many articles written by the US detailing their plans for the development in Iraq. The idea to help set up an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and accountable is a noble goal. Just imagine how the Iraqi people would respond if the US had a different reputation. Who doesn't want their country to be all those things and more? I am not so naive to think that the United States is just trying to be a good neighbor, Iraq has a large supply of oil. I just wonder if we pushed for policy that could remedy our past actions would we be able to get what we want easier. Maybe they would hate us less if we weren't characterized as the big bad bully or the worlds police force. I don't know everything about the world or politics, but I do know you catch more flies with honey and not bombs and guns.

The Most Important Issue in World Politics?

This is a hard question to answer, for multiple reasons - there is rarely one single most important issue or problem within any given subject. Also, the term “world politics” can be interpreted in a variety of different ways, and since we do not have a particular definition at this point, there will probably be very different answers to this question. With my answer, I’ll try to be brief:
I believe that at the moment, one of the most important issues in world politics - or any politics, or the world at large - is the economy: Governments and corporations need to keep the economies of the world stable and out of recession, and they need to keep most people employed. Being able to do that would result in the most prosperity for countries and their citizens. Money may be considered to be the “root of all evil” in some circumstances, but without it counties can starve, businesses both large and small can collapse, value of property goes down, and people can lose their jobs or even their homes. A stable economy is vital to the prosperity of any country or state.
How the “world” in world politics ties into this is simple - no country is isolated from the others. When one country’s economy falls into a recession, inevitably many of the others will do the same. In the past few years, the U.S, and much of Europe and Asia have all been in what many consider to be the worst recession since the Great Depression - or since World War II, in the case of Europe. Markets rise and fall in response to each other, and no country’s economy is disconnected from the others. 
Simply put, the most important issue in world politics is the struggle to maintain the world’s economy - a problem that is far from easily solved. 

The One Thing Worse Than The Plague

In today’s world the difference between causation and correlation is increasingly difficult to tell apart. As a result finding the root causes of the world’s problem is practically impossible. However, I believe the consolidation of the means of production to a small minority is responsible for most of the world’s poverty. From this systemic poverty stems many of humanities other troubles such as lack of education, violent extremism, and the breakdown (or lack of building) of cross-cultural trust.

In 1776 when Adam Smith wrote of the invisible hand in his book "The Wealth of Nations" he could never foresee what would occur if applied on a global scale. In the 1800’s food production was a far more individualized affair. Most of the world’s population directly contributed to the growth of their food. As such, they were free from any outside meddling except through violence. With the advent of improved food production techniques the means of production fell into the hands of a select few; namely the seed (or clone), fertilizer, and pesticide producers. With globalization the monopoly over food production spread. Villages that had previously practiced primarily subsistence farming willingly (but unconsciously) became reliant on a single farmer’s ability to acquire seeds from such multinational corporations as Monsanto. This homogenization and monopolization of the means of production carried over to most other produce. As a result, large swaths of the world’s population became disconnected and disenfranchised from the economy as a whole.

This consolidation of the means of production to the select few has created a huge class of wage laborers who are totally reliant on their employers for their subsistence, just as Thomas Jefferson feared. Even worse billions have been cut off from the global economy as a whole. It is this split in the global society that has created the vast amounts of extreme poverty around the world. From poverty, one can track countless other problem stemming from it. The first that comes to mind is lack of education. One could debate endlessly over whether poverty breeds lack of education or lack of education breeds poverty. In either case it is easy to see how the combination of the two creates volatile atmospheres. One of the primarily reasons for the rise in extremist Islamism from the 1970’s onward is that large portions of the poor population were isolated from traditional support structures that would normally help them. Without these educational resources, a radical Sheikh’s tongue became a place of refuge. To read more about the problem of lack of education please read Sarah’s blog at microschats.blogspot.com.

Control over the means of production has landed mostly into the hands of developed nations further the economic disparity. As a result, many poorer nations often feel marginalized and even subjugated by the powerful few. Meanwhile, the richer nations continue to see themselves as unwillingly playing the role of big brother. However, for any truly mutually beneficial agreement to be formed nations must go to the table as equals. Globalization and the growth of multinational corporations were not bad developments in the world. Many great things have been birthed from them and we should be grateful for their creation. However, to ignore the problems they have created is to ignore the billions who have been marginalized just as much as we have benefited. Until we find a way to incorporate these people into the global economy they will continue to wallow in the bile of our excess.