Archive for November, 2011

This seminar shed light on the fact that women are not treated equally.  In my opinion, much of our understanding of women stems from the Enlightenment, which associated irrationality with emotion and rationality with reason.  Furthermore, emotion was associated with nature and women.  This sexist idea is used to oppress women and the environment to this day.  I believe sexism is rooted in the feminine/masculine dichotomy.

The patriarchal system that dominates the world today is rooted deep within our global society.  Although it can be traced back to ancient times, it has evolved in many ways, expressing itself in various forms of oppression. Furthermore, it appears to have consolidated itself through the process of globalization, and is deceptively presented as the only and best way to structure society.  Many have embraced the Platonism that has imbued itself into Western culture. The Platonic conception of human nature—where reason is exalted and praised and emotion is demonized—culminated in the Enlightenment. This dichotomy of reason and emotion continues to prevail today and is essential to maintaining the oppressive power structure of the patriarchal system, which is built on the perversion of attributing masculine characteristics to reason and feminine characteristics to emotion.

Indeed, the Enlightenment has perverted human nature by devaluing the intelligence of the emotions and appetites of human beings.  Platonism has influenced Western culture to such an extent that the mind is seen to be the true self.  However, it must be said that we are not just minds; we are much more.  The complexity of human beings must be taken into account.  Nietzsche understood this and condemned Platonic-Christianity for devaluing human emotions.  It is a perversion to exalt the mind over emotions, and likewise, to exalt the emotions over the mind.  Blaise Pascal wrote that there are “two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only.”  Both reason and emotion are equal.  They are dependent on each other and should be treated holistically.

This perversion of human nature oppresses both men and women. It confines our freedom by forcing us to fit into either masculine or feminine social roles.  Hence, we are never able to reach our full potential as human beings.


Various social groups are looked over, or “invisible” in many societies around the world.  Today the seminar primarily focused on one such group, women.  Women have fought and continue to fight to be visible in our world.  The translation fo today’s seminar was a bit difficult to understand, but the overall message was clear.  Even today, in the 21st century, women are still being ignored and treated unequally.

There is a website, Equals?, that seeks to open up this topic for discussion.  Just as the video above pointed out, the question of inequality – “Are we equals?” – must continue to be asked until there is a definitive answer of “YES!” worldwide.  I would like to share some of the posters that are available to download from this site, so I have posted a couple of my favorites below.

Download the “Little Book of Big Debate Starters” here!


Today’s seminar presented three types of international crime:

-Genocide (mass murder, abortion, sterilization, displacements)

-War Crime (inhuman treatment, attacks on civilians, law of war violations)

-Crime against humanity (slavery, torture, forced pregnancy, rape)

Several countries, along with Europe as a whole, were mentioned.  For example, the genocide that took place in Rwanda between April and June of 1994 killed 800,000 to 1 million people.  The causes presented in today’s seminar were bad government, bad politics, and mass hysteria (created fear of an imaginary enemy).  The impact this had on Rwanda led to the creation of individual criminal responsibility internationally, the creation of international treaties on the suppression of crimes, and creation of remedial jurisprudence.

In the video below, several prominent people working in the field of international criminal justice discuss this young system.

I was disappointed that the presenter did not include Ecocide among the three international crimes.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Ecocide as “the destruction of large areas of the natural environment especially as a result of deliberate human action.”  War is the most obvious attack on the environment, but it is only one aspect of militarization.  Militarization seriously threatens the environment; it is a perpetual war waged against the ecosystem.  It is the worst kind of crime because not only does it kill other living things and the natural environment, it destroys the ecosystem, which human beings (and all living things) depend on for survival.

Interesting Links:

How can non-profits use social media to promote international justice and human rights?

Transitional Justice Issues


Today’s seminar commented on the social conditions that allow or give way to the violence surrounding the drug trafficking conflict in Mexico.  They offered the following five conditions:  poverty, inequality and few opportunities; youth at the crossroads; institutional exhaustion, distrust and corruption; systematic gender-based violence; the historical exclusion of indigenous peoples; and uncertainty.

This was the best seminar this year.  Ulises, Paulina, and Berenice did a very good job.  They were we well prepared and made sure that the interpreters had written copies of the presentation beforehand.  This helped the students in the English line a lot.  Normally the students in the English line are unable to follow exactly what is being said during the intercultural seminars.  We are forced to guess what is being said many times because of the low quality of interpretation.  However, this particular presentation was the exception to the rule.  I hope that future presentations will be like this.  I really enjoyed it and learned a lot.  It was really fun too.

However, to understand these conditions, one must also know the political history relating to drug trafficking.  Therefore, the timeline below was presented:

State Policies

1920 – 1931:  criminalization of drug trafficking

1930 – 1970:  state policies and use of the forces of military

1980s:  strengthening and drug cartels as a threat to national security

1990 – ?:  increased militarization and little else

The political relationship to drugs

1914 – 1947: subordination

1947 – 1985:  mediation/hidden corruption

1985 – 2000:  gradual loss of control/visible corruption

2000 – ?:  democratization of the narcotics

Towards the end of the seminar, they discussed the reactions to peace in Mexico.  The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity brings various reactions, but seeks to unify and act as an interlocutor or catalyst to transform fear into mobilization of citizens.

In the context of conflict in Colombia, today’s seminar focused on the phenomenon of the paramilitary in that country.  The paramilitary is comprised of local, self-governed initiatives (social, economic, or political groups) that seek control through force.  This paramilitary force, more often than not, leads to violence due to politics, guerillas, and/or narcotics.  The presenters told the history of the conflict through real-life stories.  The following videos give a brief summary of this history as well as the current action being taken (the Justice and Peace Law).

This intercultural seminar was very creative.  Jazmin and Alba were very well prepared and had very interesting ideas.  I particularly liked the way in which they incorporated music and specifically live violin into their presentation as a way to capture the emotion of what is happening in Colombia.  I also liked how Jazmin and Alba incorporated the audience into their presentation.  I was one of the students who played a part.  It was very exciting.  I’m beginning to think that the students in the Master should give the intercultural seminars.  They are always better.  Furthermore, the students are able to work with the interpreters, which helps the English line understand what is being presented.