Category: Intercultural Seminar III


Today’s seminar was very thought-provoking.  Although I have no current plans of pursuing a diplomatic career, it was interesting to learn how one goes about it.  For instance, the speaker, Jorge Fuentes Monzonis-Vilallonga (who was the Ambassador of Spain in Bulgaria), stated that careers in diplomacy have a number of ranks, like the military.  These ranks range from Secretary of Embassy, Chief Minister, and Ambassador.  However, I’m not sure that the military is the best institution to model diplomacy since the point of diplomacy is (or at least should be) peace.  Nevertheless, it was very interesting to see how diplomacy is used in the pursuit of peace.

Additionally, he mentioned that there were the following, different types of diplomacy:

Dilateral:  the most common and most traditional, these embassies are offices that opened in another country and are under the command of an ambassador (which includes all things political, economic, cultural, military, etc.).

Anomaly:  such as in Catalunya, Andalucia, and other communities, these embassies include Embassies of the State.

Multilateral:  recently created organizations gaining importance, such as, NATO, OSCE, ASEAN, Arab League, etc.

Ad Hoc Diplomacy:  Embassadors are appointed for special missions, such as, the conflict in Afganistan or the rescue of kidnapped citizens.

Itinerant:  visiting heads of state, prime ministers, and ministers that resolve problems between countries.

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As stated on their website “Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization working in nearly 70 countries to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe.”  This organization was started in 1971 by French doctors and journalists.  It is a neutral, independent organization with no political, religious, or economic ties.  Furthermore, its core belief is that every human being deserves medical help no matter their race, nationality, religious or political beliefs, but rather that it is a fundamental right as a human being to receive medical care when needed.  This is truly and amazing organization and I urge everyone to watch the videos I have posted on this blog and, more importantly, to donate to MSF in order to keep their aid available to the many suffering people in our world today.

The entire concept of doctors not being restricted to borders should is a good example of how the world should operate.  The idea of borders is implicitly xenophobic.  It creates tribalism.  All people are the same and should be treated the same.  Doctors Without Borders is advocating equality.  Inequality is the underlying problem with this world.  It is a necessary component of capitalism.  Unfortunately, some doctors in the US discriminate against people even within US borders because they cannot afford to pay for healthcare.  This is also part of the capitalist system.

In this seminar, Xavier Giró spoke about the media and their involvement in conflict situations.  Although he commented on various aspects of this topic, I would like to focus on one that I find most interesting: criticism of the media in situations of conflict.

Many people still believe that a plurality of media sources exist in the mainstream, in competition with each other, with diverse perspectives and political opinions. Of course, quite the opposite is true. The concentration of media ownership has brought about the death of variety.  The narratives pushed by these mainstream media outlets are more or less the same with marginal degrees of differences in the political and economic discourse.

Furthermore, the mainstream media plays a vital role in manufacturing consent for wars.  Today the media is conditioning the US public for a war with Iran.  the mainstream media excludes antiwar voices and, in fact, even contributes to war.  The example of the role the media played in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are a perfect example of the media supporting war.

When it was discovered that Al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks, the press quickly framed the discussion around the question “Why do they hate us?”  They usually implied Muslims in general.  Without allowing for a rational debate or response, the media fell behind Whitehouse officials in promoting the absurd government line that they hate freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. Although it may be partially true, it ignores the dark history of western powers in the Middle East, fails to mention the United States support of brutal dictators, the Mujahedeen, the overthrow of democratically elected leaders, and so on. Those who challenged this assumption made by the media were frequently accused of being anti-American, sympathetic to the enemy, or out of touch with reality. This was done with the aim of discrediting their answers. The country rallied around the flag in a way I had never seen before. The Whitehouse took full advantage of this spectacle of patriotic arrogance, using jingoistic language, and George W. Bush declared, “You‟re either with us or against us in the fight against terror”.  Therefore, anyone who spoke out against the war was a potential enemy of the United States.

In short, the media contribute to conflict in many ways.  In the United States the mainstream media sacrifices it’s journalistic duty to question authority and power by establishing cozy relationships with the Whitehouse and Congress in order to gain media access.

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.

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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.

Food Justice

In a world that produces enough food for everyone, why are some living with excess and others with nothing?  The seminar today presented the major challenges of fixing the world’s broken food system.  The three challenges were:  sustainable food production (feeding 9 billion people without destroying the planet), equity (to address inequities among producers and the consumers), and resilience (managing risks and reducing vulnerability to local and global levels).  They then gave suggestions for international reform followed by a call for action, in order to remedy this broken system.  Reforming the food aid system, regular inspections, and capitalizing on (or making the most of) the new global climate were among the suggestions given.  The actions called for were given in regards to the fact that hunger, poverty, and vulnerability are concentrated in rural areas. Thus, these were expanding social protection and developing comprehensive strategies to reduce hunger.  If we work together, we work towards ‘growing a better future‘.

‘We need to address the question of global hunger not as one of production only, but also as one of marginalization, deepening inequalities, and social injustice. We live in a world in which we produce more food than ever before, and in which the hungry have never been as many.’  ~Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food at the FAO Conference, November 2000

In this day and age, with an abundance of food,  it is unacceptable that so few have so much and so many have so little.  I believe that this inequality of distribution of food is an effect of the capitalist system, which is based on inequality and the assumption that there must be rich and poor for the system to function properly.  Therefore, if we want to live in a world where everyone has access to food we ought to oppose the capitalist system that creates poverty and contributes to the inequality of food distribution.

‘… nowadays when it comes to the rains sometimes you get too much and it destroys the crops. Sometimes you don’t get any at all and the crops just wilt. If that happens, you don’t have any food the next year. About the rains, I don’t know what we can do.’
~Killa Kawalema, farmer, Malawi

World Hunger

ACF International (Acción Contra el Hambre & Action Contre la Faim) is an organization that seeks to end hunger worldwide.  It aides those in areas of war, conflict, and natural disasters.  It focus on the following five areas:  nutrition (treatment and prevention), health (public health programs, immunization, prevention and training local staff, maternal health, etc.), food safety (resumption of farming, livestock, and other activities generating sufficient resources to families to feed themselves adequately), and water (the first food, without it there is no life).

Accordingy to the World Hunger Report of 2011, food prices are steadily increasing.  This is a major cause of poverty and food insecurity in the world today.  This is particularly true of smaller African countries who depend on imports from other countries.  Furthermore, it is making the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) even harder to reach.  Currently, the MDG is to reduce the number of people suffering from hunger in half by 2015, but this still leaves 600 million people without sufficient food.  Therefore, it is going to take much more than the work of a few NGO/NPOs.  Jacque Diouf of FAO, Kanayo F. Nwanze of IFAD, and Josette Sheeran of WFP insist that “the entire international community must act today and act forcefully to banish food insecurity from the planet.”  They go on to discuss what must be done, increasing farm productivity and reducing food waste in developed countries, for instance.

All problems related to inequality, such as world hunger, are effects of the capitalist system.  It is a system that needs rich and poor, satisfied and starving, slaves and masters, etc.  Therefore, to solve world hunger we must advocate for a different more equitable system not based on consumerism and over-consumption.   Factory farms are also a product of capitalism.  Factory farms are giant torture chambers for animals.  If you ever witness a video of what happens to defenseless animals inside factory farms you will never want to eat meat again.  The capitalist solution to world hunger is to increase production of meat via factory farming.  It is noteworthy to point out that many diseases come out of factory farms that affect humans (i.e. swine flu).  It is my belief that we can feed that world without treating animals as objects to be used by humans.  In short, capitalism is not the answer to world hunger.

The following video clearly, and concisely, interprets the worldwide hunger crisis:

Today’s seminar on ethnic discrimination resonated with me, especially when they were presenting the information regarding indigenous peoples. While the ILO Convention and the United Nations have set laws to protect these people and their land, many of them still need our help.

I receive weekly emails from an organization called Survival International.  Survival International works with the following tribes from around the world, helping to ensure their protection and fighting for their human rights.  Please take a moment to visit their website and join the efforts to preserve the basic human rights of these people.

The Americas

Africa

Asia & Australasia

One tribe in particular is in desperate need of our help, the Jummas tribe of Bangladesh.  Please visit this website, and send a letter to the Bangladeshi government, urging it to ratify ILO 169 immediately.
It is interesting to me that indigenous people have such a close connection to nature.  They do not separate themselves from nature like we do in modern society.  In fact, we have become so alienated from nature that we are even waging war on the environment on which we depend for survival.  We ought to look to indigenous people as an example of how we can live at peace with the earth and ourselves.