I am just coming to the end of my annual fasting period (which explains, at least in part, my lack of blog posts–sorry). Fasting (in whatever form) has a number of benefits I think. Many focus on the purely material aspect, but I think the inward, spiritual if you will, aspects are the most important (though, admittedly, the physical can certainly occupy most of your attention from time to time :-) ). In my case, among other things, my ability to think abstractly seems to improve (or maybe I just get a bit vague due to low blood sugar, who knows), and my subjective “impressions” of things intensify. This often gives me what seems to be a new perspective on certain things.
This is the case with the book/film, “The Hunger Games”, which is “hot” right now, I guess. I have only read the first book, and have certainly not seen the film, however, I wanted to share my fast-heightened impression. I find the premise of the first book absolutely appalling…frankly, beyond the limits of decency (rather like, if you saw that post, using pre-adolescents beating each other up in the re-make of karate kid). If you are unfamiliar with the story (good for you–but you probably won’t be for long, given the media blitz), here is the basic idea. To punish, and control, once rebellious provinces the central authority of an empire requires that each year every province send one child/adolescent to the capitol for a battle to the death called The Hunger Games. Of course, the plucky and resourceful main character finds a way to survive and even subvert the system to the extent of actually getting her partner to survive with her. Though I have deliberately not looked at plot summaries of the later volumes, I am guessing that she goes on to foster a successful rebellion against the central authority etc…
OK…so maybe there is a “happy ending”…but that is not my point. I just find the initial premise so horrendous as to be completely off putting and unacceptable. This again raises the question of how far authors have to go to excite the feelings of our jaded and emotionally dulled age. Good grief: every year, you have to make a sacrifice of children (whose deaths are described in some cases in lurid detail)? What is all this supposed to tell us about the contemporary human condition? Anything? … or is it just to sell books? I guess you could say that an empire that has to ‘eat” its own children to survive is doomed to fall; and that is certainly presaged in the first book by the effeteness and superficial luxury in the capitol as contrasted with the misery of the provinces.
I suppose this is all just further evidence of how our culture has become “violencized”: a word I just made up meaning infused with and accustomed to very violent acts and practices…and there is nothing very new about that. Still, from a purely subjective perspective, this one “hit” me harder than many of the (many) others; probably because I am a parent.
I am certainly not saying the book/movie should be banned or boycotted, or anything like that. I am only saying that if you too have the feeling that this is rather awful, you are not alone. It is awful.
IGbarb says: “Fighting to the death is a losing proposition for everybody: all those who died, and the last one standing who had to kill to get there!”
I’m probably the last person on the planet to learn about this (actually I think I heard something a while ago and forgot, but never mind). But the other day watching a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game on TV, I suddenly realized that the announcer kept saying “World Peace this…” and “World Peace that…”, as in “World Peace is fouled and will shoot two three throws”. That was certainly something you don’t hear every day about peace! After a while I figured out it was Ron Artest. If you know who he is/was you will appreciate even more what’s below. To make a long story short he was suspended an entire season a few years ago for brawling with fans. I saw it live: he was provoked, but even so….Anyhow, he had anger management issues as we say today, and is apparently trying to do something about it (with some success). So, I had a google and found this article from the L.A. Times.
We have World Peace: Ron Artest gets name change
September 16, 2011|By Ben Bolch
The most ballyhooed name change of the year became official Friday morning when a Los Angeles County Superior Court commissioner approved the former Ron Artest’s request to become Metta World Peace.
Amid labor discord that threatens to delay, if not wipe out, the NBA season, there is World Peace.
He is 6 feet 7, wears No. 15 for the Lakers and once participated in the infamous “Palace brawl.”
Anyone now making his acquaintance will be meeting Metta World Peace. Those on a first-name basis can call him Metta, while those a little further removed can buy jerseys with his last name of World Peace stretched across the back.
The most ballyhooed name change of the year became official Friday morning when a Los Angeles County Superior Court commissioner approved the former Ron Artest’s request.
World Peace was expected to attend the hearing, but about an hour after the court doors opened, his attorney, Nahla Rajan, announced that the Lakers forward was not coming. A few minutes later, Commissioner Matthew C. St. George approved the name change in a hearing that lasted about 30 seconds.
St. George: “Mr. Artest has requested a name change to Metta World Peace?”
Rajan: “Yes, your honor.”
St. George: “And it’s for personal reasons, he said?”
Rajan: “Yes, your honor.”
St. George: “OK. All right. He’ll now be known as Metta World Peace. Thank you.”
World Peace’s publicist, Courtney Barnes, said his client had been contemplating the switch for years, “but it took many years of research and soul-searching to find a first name that was both personally meaningful and inspirational.” Metta is a Buddhist term that means loving kindness and friendliness toward others.
“Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” World Peace said in a statement. “I’m glad that it is now official.”
World Peace had hoped to adopt his new moniker last month but was rebuffed because of an outstanding traffic ticket. He was cited for driving without a license and faced an additional charge after missing a court date, Rajan said.
Ticket paid, World Peace can now reign.
And it may be spreading fast. Barnes confirmed reports that World Peace’s 8-year-old daughter, Diamond, wants to adopt her father’s new surname.
“They wanted to wait until this was fully done before” starting the process, Barnes said.
Rajan said changing the name of a child requires the consent of both parents.
World Peace must now obtain a new driver’s license and passport. Barnes said his client would more fully explain his name change Monday when he appears on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Though World Peace was not required to attend Friday’s hearing, Barnes said his client was on his way a few minutes before the court session was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Artest’s name was listed first on the docket.
IGbarb says: “World Peace on the back of an NBA jersey? Why the heck not!”
I don’t usually have much to say about partisan politics. Some think this odd since I am trained as a Political Scientist. However, as I’ve argued a few times, I see politics as a dependent variable and as an ascriptive, culturally specific activity. So, if you want change, which is what this blog is about, after all, you need to change the culture and values from which politics “spring”, so to speak.
However, I had a thought this morning that I thought I would share. If you follow the current political campaigns, have a listen to see to what extent (if at all) “peace” as we have discussed it in this blog is mentioned and how often and with what priority it figures in the various speeches, press conferences, etc.. The two campaigns I hear most about are the U.S. and the French (remember I live on a French island). About the only direct references to peace that come to mind immediately, are getting out of Afghanistan and something about Israel and Palestinians. Personally, I don’t know that these are very strong references to peace since the former is more about ending a conflict rather than establishing or maintaining something more positive; and the latter…well, I don’t know that there is much to say about a peace process which for now seems to produce more conflict and alienation than anything else.
The point here is not to wring hands, but to at least note that peace, in general, is not perceived as important to the electorates candidates are courting. For instance, in France the incumbent’s slogan(roughly translated) is “A strong France”. This clearly resonates. One has some difficulty imagining a candidate running with the slogan “A peaceful France” or “A France for Peace”. I think much can be learned about the state of the world from this observation. In fact, a peaceful France would have to be a strong France, but that is not generally understood. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.
IGbarb says: “We used (ie during the Cold War) to say ‘peace through strength’. Now why not say ‘strength through peace’.
I am preparing a course that will consider North-South relations, understood broadly (ie not just politics and economics), and I have decided that the best way to organize this material is against the background of globalization. This has led me to revisit a number of the (very interesting) topics associated with this contemporary buzzword. One of the most interesting, is, in fact, the very diverse views on whether the “big G” is, fundamentally, good or bad for us; and more specifically in regard to the concerns of this blog, does it promote peace or something else. You too can have fun with this: go to Mr. Google and search “globalization and peace”, or “globalisation and peace” if you are in the more British tradition.
I suspect what you will find will be something like the following. First there are those who draw on some now rather conventional economic reasoning that globalization promotes trade links and trade links are inversely proportional to conflict between/among countries. This is valid, I think, as far as it goes…but it probably doesn’t go far enough. After all, there has been a lot of talk about “free trade” vs. “fair trade”. While globalization might be seen to be promoting the former, it is only indirectly, at best, promoting the latter; meaning that concern about fair trade emerges in reaction to the social, political and economic concerns arising from the excesses of unregulated (ie “free”) trade. Consider in this regard, coffee. As I understand it, the dynamics of the global coffee market have created a situation where there are only a handful of firms that actually buy raw coffee beans from growers. This is what is called an oligopsony–many sellers/few buyers. As you can imagine these buyers can more or less dictate the price they pay. In many cases the price is too low for peasant farmers to make much of a living (and hence we have the “fair trade” movement in regard to coffee–Max Havelaar and others), and they have an incentive to grow other crops, which would not be a problem except that the best alternative for them in places like Colombia and elsewhere is coca….which feeds the cartels, undermines governments, etc…etc…. The dynamics are not always that simple, but I think you can see what I’m getting at. One could multiply examples here, from culture to the environment.
Basically, globalization brings us closer to together and changes, thereby, the ways we think about and deal with our problems. In itself, it does not foster peace. Consider, if you are closely linked with a trading partner, this may either cause you to be wary of getting into conflict with that partner, or to be more inclined to intervene (through various means) and try to make sure the “right” decisions are made by that partner (“right” meaning those more closely aligned with your own interests). It can go either way.
So, what am I saying? Globalization certainly makes peace more urgent since in a small(er) space more damage is created by conflict. It therefore creates more possibilities for moving toward peace. One might even argue that such movement becomes increasingly likely, since its opposite will create more and more problems (not to say tragedies and disasters). So, once again we come down to the ever present “learning curve”. How steep is it? That is exactly what we are finding out every day!
IGbarb says: “Get out your thinking caps…there is a lot of learning to do (in a hurry)!”
I heard this (again, I guess) on an oldie station the other day. Please take a moment to listen and read the lyrics. It says it all. It tears my heart out. This woman is a genius.
Here is the video of Ms. Chapman singing the song: Bang! Bang! Bang!
Bang! Bang! Bang! Lyrics
(Song for little man)
“What you go and do
You go and give the boy a gun
Now there ain’t place to run to
Ain’t no place to run
When he hold it in his hand
He feel mighty he feel strong
Now there ain’t no place to run to
Ain’t no place to run
One day he may come back
Repay us for what we’ve done
Then where you gonna run to
Where you gonna run
But one fine day
All our problems will be solved
Bang bang bang
We’ll shoot him down
Give him drugs and give him candy
Anything oohhh, to make him think he’s happy
And he won’t ever come for us
He won’t ever come
But if he does
And if there’s no one else around
Bang bang bang
We’ll shoot him down
If he preys only on his neighbors
Brothers sisters and friends
We’ll consider it a favor
We’ll consider justice done
But if he comes for you or me
And we can place a gun in his hand
Bang bang bang
We’ll shoot him dead
What you go and do
You go and give the boy a gun
Now there ain’t no place to run to
Ain’t no place to run
Now we’ll all be at his mercy
If he decides to hunt us down
Cause there ain’t no place to run to
Ain’t no place to run
If he wants the chances that you took from him
And nothing that you own
Then there’ll be no place to run to
There’ll be no place to run
And if he finds himself to be
A reflection of us all
Bang bang bang
He’ll shoot us down
Before you can raise your eyes to read
The writing on the wall
Bang bang bang
He’ll shoot you down
Before you can bridge the gulf between
And embrace him in your arms
Bang bang bang
He’ll shoot you down”
IGbarb says: “For God’s (and your own) sake, raise your eyes, bridge the gap!”
It is hard, for several reasons, to make sense of the world; and it is understandable that many people talk about rising “disorder” or even “chaos”. However, there are, I think, understandable reasons for this situation. One is that the world we knew, that we thought was “solid” is turning out to be “fluid” or at least not so solid. The parameters are changing, we are in some sort of, to use what is now something of a cliché, paradigm shift. Or, put another way, more and more we are confronted by GGI’s–ie Global Governance Issues– that just won’t go away (much as we wish they would).
Or to quote (for the “nieme fois” as the French say) W.B. Yeats‘s “The Second Coming”: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…”. We are probably not conscious of the degree to which this is actually happening. However, consider to what an extent “issues” keep cropping up for which solutions cannot readily be found, or in regard to which the existing structures of world order (for lack of a better term) don’t seem adequate. The Euro crisis is a good example. The Euro was/is a good idea, but it wasn’t set up with enough means to keep it on track. Or look at the U.N. Charter. The world had just had a terrible trauma (ie WW II) and it was pretty clear that change was necessary, and yet the limits of peoples world views prevented the founders of the organization from really creating means adequate to deal with the realities of world politics then and now. Or, consider the current wave of intra-state conflicts. Certainly, international norms have evolved to some extent, and “non-interference” in a state’s internal affairs can be side-steppe by the Security Council if they deem that those “affairs” are creating threats to international peace and security (…and don’t “pooh pooh” this: it is a significant innovation). However, the main actors (in most cases the permanent members of that same SC) have to be willing to act, to really take the principle of Collective Security seriously…and to date they are not yet always ready to do that. So, we often get responses to crises that are too little, too late (or at least seem that way).
Such are the “interesting” times in which we live. It will probably get worse before it gets a lot better, in that the limitations of our world order and the mindset(s) that underpin it, will become more and more obvious; and the crises these limitations create will be more acute…and it is exactly this which brings significant change. So, to reiterate my main message for early 2012:
“IGbarb says: fasten your seat belts, we are in, and will probably remain in for some time, a zone of turbulence.”
Just me noting a few things I have found interesting.
First, as I suspected the whole Euro issue would push the EU toward more governance. Of course, many countries don’t like this; but personally, I think the Euro is here to stay and more centralized fiscal control is an inevitability. Today Europe…tomorrow (well not exactly tomorrow, but anyway…) the world!
Second, it is amazing how information diffuses these days, and also amazing that people who nobody thought were really interested in democracy, seem to be interested after all. Who knew? In fact, though, it is probably not democracy in any specific form that they want (you can fill in the names for the “they” here–just pick up a newspaper). They want to have some say over what happens to them, they want to have a sense of identity that is not constantly being called into question by events…and they want to live in a society with meaningful relationships that confirm their identity and help them to participate in what shapes their lives. We all want this. You can call this human rights, or essential freedoms, or whatever. It is what humans (as John Burton pointed out quite a few years ago now) need to be fully human. Also, and this is the part we are seeing today: it can’t be taken away forever; or, for that matter negotiated away. People will, sooner or later, rise up to take it back.
Politics is a dependent variable. Huh? Well, while we go on and on about who is governing whom and who might get the chance to replace them in what election, we lose sight of the bigger picture, which I suspect has to do with the fact that our values and our culture pretty much determine what happens in our politics. So, if you want to change politics (heck, what right-thinking person doesn’t?) you have to change those values and, by implication, the culture in which they are embedded….which explains, to some extent at least, why I am a teacher and not a politician. True, I teach about politics, but I don’t practice what most would consider politics…but believe me, I see myself very much involved in the process of global change (even if in a small way).
We really need to unite, at least to a basic workable level, our planet. Heck we are finding more and more possibly inhabitable worlds. Sooner, rather than later, the Star Trek scenario will be upon us (ie when we start to move at light speed through space). Heaven (literally) only knows what will happen at that point. Personally, I think we need all hands on deck on spaceship earth for what will be a probably never ending series of challenges without precedent. No more time for squabbles, or neglecting suffering, or stupid prejudices…Everybody is “us”…no more”them”. If you don’t get that, take a really hard look at the stars some night…a real hard, real long look. Let that good old cosmic insignificance sink deep into you. If you do this, you just might, as I did at one point, realize that that very feeling (as uncomfortable as it can be) is a creative force. We really are all in this planetary life thing together. There really is, as Sartre said, “no exit”. Or, as Stuart Brand, creater of the Whole Earth Catalogue used to say “we are as gods, so we might as well get good at it”.
IGbarb says: “Gods are as gods do…be as godly as you can!”
* I think this is from Frank Zappa, but I’m not sure (Karl Weaver are you out there?)
I don’t want to offend anybody, but as a “peacenik” I find the idea of “holy warrior” something of an oxymoron–at least these days. I understand a little about the “jihadist” mindset and its reputed historical origins at the time of the Prophet himself. BTW, there are a variety of views about what Jihad means and how it should be carried out, and they do not all involve arms. I am also a little informed about the Christian crusader tradition, and about the actual “ups and downs” –both military and moral–of the crusaders in the Middle Ages. I can even remember as a child being fascinated with the Crusades and having a very hard time accepting that, at the end of the day (and despite the nearly 100 years of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem) Europe lost.
What is on my mind today is just how inappropriate, ineffective and generally problematic the “holy warrior” concept/image is in our era. It may have had its time, utility and raison d’etre, but there are many indicators that that time is past (at least, IMHO). Killing for God, just doesn’t work anymore. Why? well, I don’t think it is very complicated. In our day, it is rather clear that (as always) violence surely breeds violence. So unless you kill or convert everybody, you are just going to raise the overall level of violence and vengeance in the world by behaving this way; and it is hard to see how that is good for anybody except, maybe, the arms merchants. I’m not sure any contemporary “holy warriors” have a real chance to convert or kill everybody who doesn’t agree with them, so it might be time to seriously think about changing tactics (whoever you are and whatever your agenda might be). So how about instead of “kill or convert”, we try something like “educate and convince”? Just a thought :-)
That being said, remember I am a political scientist more or less specialising in the Global South. So, I know that many times “religion” is a vehicle for pursuing what are really very much earthly political goals. However, if people can appreciate that the “old school” holy warrior mode/mindset might actually be counter-productive for their faith(s) and at the same time make them the pawns of ideologues and demagogues with other agendas, we might start to see a change in the right direction…something more along the lines of “blessed are the peacemakers”.
IGbarb says: “Beat your swords into ploughshares (it’s about time, right?).”
Everybody–or at least almost everybody–knows this is the anniversary of the JFK assassination, right? As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I was much affected by this (and by earlier and later related events, like the Cuban missile crisis) as a child. I remember crying and not really knowing why.
Anyhow, besides the fact that we will probably never know the “whole truth” about what happened, what, if anything, can be learned about these event?. Obviously, I’m reflecting from a “peace perspective”.
Well, the world was a very complicated and scary place then. It still is, I guess, but then fear had a particular “edge”: nuclear annihilation and communist infiltration (I guess the “edge” now is terrorism, but anyway…). Interestingly both of those issues are not what they used to be. Communism, at least in its world wide threat form, is largely gone and nuclear annihilation, while still with us, is much less likely since the world’s biggest nuke owners are doing more talking than sabre rattling these days. I know, I know…there are those Chinese and there is Taiwan and there is India and Pakistan, and Iran’s weapons, etc… But the current situation is, I would recklessly venture to assert at least one or two (or even more) orders of magnitude less threatening than what we used to know. There was a time, for instance, in the early 80’s (I think) when something like 60% of U.S. college students did not expect to live to be 30 because they expected nuclear war.
So, I have this theory that strange times produce strange people and also to quote (I think) the psychologist Alfred Adler, you pay for everything you do out of fear. There were plenty of strange people acting out of fear (or taking advantage of other people’s fear) to create semi governments within governments and to justify all sorts of things in the name of national security (this still goes one, of course). It seems to me what happened in Dallas was, somehow or other (no matter what scenario you find most plausible) related to these broader currents of the time.
Conclusion: change the “currents” and you may get different and even “better” results. However, if you let fear drive your behavior/ policy, similar outcomes are to be expected.
IGbarb says: “FDR was right, at least to some extent: the only thing (or maybe one of the main things) we have to fear, is fear itself!”
Readers of this blog have probably figured out, in general terms, my point of view on world events. Basically, I see humanity being obliged to evolve (the expression “kicking and screaming” comes to mind) into its maturity, represented by the emergence of a world civilization. Admittedly, this point of view has a degree of optimism in that total extinction is not anticipated. OK…now keeping that in mind, consider the following comments.
It has impressed me for some time how people in “civilized” countries have, for a very long time, been resigned to and more or less taken for granted actions and situations at the international level which they would consider intolerable in their own communities. I see this as a an example of what the Marxists call a “contradiction”: something in the socio-political order that is unstable and has to change as either circumstances or consciousness change. What do I mean? Well, consider. Even if many local governments are not effective at coping with the ongoing crimes of gangs, citizens are not usually ready to say” oh well, that’s just the way it is” “people (men) are just like that” ” it has always been like that and will always be like that” “it is naive and utopian to think it could be otherwise”. No..they would scream for police action, legislation, community action…in short that government and civil society do something to stop the violence, crime and chaos in their community.
However, the statements in quotations above are exactly the kind of thing one hears about violence and crime at the global level. Basically the view is: “what do you expect from a chaotic social system characterized by an unbridled struggle among distinct and separate national actors to survive and dominate”. This is what I would call “bifurcated” thinking, and immediately gives rise to the following critique: if governance is good at the local and national levels, why not at the global level? Some reply that it is impossible, but that is an increasingly weak argument, since humanity is, and has been for some time, doing all sorts of things previously thought impossible. I was reminded this weekend that every second the Voyager space probes are pushing back the (still infinitesimally small, admittedly) scope of humanity’s penetration into the universe. If we can do all these unprecedented things, we can also do something about global governance.
So, personally, I think this contradiction will resolve itself through the unstoppable expansion of peoples’ personal horizons to encompass the global–our thinking is literally becoming global, even in regard to trivial day to day things (professional sports, “dancing with the stars” etc…). This leads inevitably to an increasing capacity to see beyond the “us/them” distinction, and to grasp that people suffering far away are still in as much pain as people suffering down the street…and that something should be done about this.
I think this is the trend, but it is obvious that the process of change in this direction is sporadic and characterized by reactionary impulses to “close borders” etc… In this regard, I’m not saying that immigration policies are irrelevant. What I’m saying is that you have to look to the cause of your immigration problem and the complex dynamics and historical background that put your society in this situation. You may not want to, but I don’t see how you can, over the medium to longer run, avoid doing so.
Anyhow, you see what I’m driving at, I suppose. If you don’t, feel free to ask me :-)
IGBarb says (again quoting the immortal Walt Kelly): “We have met the enemy, and he is us”