Tuesday, September 30, 2008

IS HANNAH ARENDT A RACIST?

This past weekend, I attended the Spindel Conference and listen to a thesis paper written by Kathryn T. Gines. Gines paper attempts to analyze the work of Hannah Arendt. She feels that Arendt’s theories in papers are often overlooked and oversimplified, proposing the question of whether Arendt has racist undertones in her work. In Gines’ paper, she did not go into much detail about Arendt. What I came to realize was that she is a Jewish woman that resided in Germany for the beginning of her life. As she became more influential as a philosopher, she had to flee Germany and continued a life where freedom of action and speech were not always an option. To the common perspective, Arendt’s battle of religious suppression makes her more creditable when it comes to discussing issues of anti-black racism. Here, Gines tends to disagree.

The beginning of Gine’s thesis paper began with the topic of Black College Students and Higher Education. Here she quotes Arendt saying that the majority of negro students were admitted to lower standards in universities and were not qualified to attend the school. In Arendt’s analysis of education, she did not include anything addressing why qualified black students were not accepted into predominately white colleges. Gine’s attributes the acceptance of negroes into these prestigious schools due to what she calls “ white guilt,” which are thought to be actions out of pity. She then began to discuss ideologies, relevant to our class discussions a few weeks ago. She defines her Black Racist Ideology stating that blacks have to develop an ideology to justify their needs and demands. To counter that, Gine’s states that whites grow up having an anti-black ideology, which would explain why blacks don’t get into white school programs. Throughout this part of the paper, I felt that the claims made by Gine’s were extremely bias. Her interpretation of Arendt’s theories seemed to take small parts and analyze them, instead of taking a full look at the work in context.

Following this topic, Gine’s address Arendt’s Reflections of Little Rock Essay. Gine’s feels that the essay is a cultural misunderstanding and is similar to Arendt’s thoughts in other work. Arendt separates political issues from social issues. In her essay, she says that resorts and places of amusement should remain segregated, seeming this is not a political issue. She feels that there cannot be a “right” to go into a private owned place. Arendt says that public services such as buses etc. are public domain and should not be segregated. Arendt follows by saying equality in politics and public domain must be enforced, other wise there should be discrimination because it keeps groups and communities combined. To Gine’s, there is no difference between political and social issues. They are all interconnected. To make the distinction from political and social issues of segregation and integration, is a racist statement.

After the seminar was over, questions were running through my mind. Gine’s had brought up the Brown vs. Board court case that happened over 50 years ago. She inferred that if this is still such an issue today, has anything changed since then? Also, is segregation just happening in the south or is it a universal problem? My conclusion is that one form of suppression cannot be compared to other. Although, Arendt states some questionable topics and claims, these cannot solely define her as a racist.

I Want to Be Proven Wrong, Seriously

I got bored the other night so, I entertained myself with my thoughts. My train of thought eventually led to our philosophy class and its discussions. And while on this topic, a question came to mind. Is philosophy a waste of time? Is learning about it or being a philosopher worth it? Do the ideas philosophers present make any relative or significant difference in our lives, in the world? At first I will admit that I felt ashamed for asking this question, but the more I thought about it the more it became logical to ask.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary philosophy is the “investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods” (633). In other words, part of a philosopher’s job is to research the problems or conflicts in our world and then derive a theory from their investigations. But do their theories inspire anyone to change the problem? Or are the theories in the end just “bitching”? At the philosophy seminar this past weekend at the University of Memphis, one lady read a huge thesis paper she wrote dealing with a problem related to racism. But will her thesis actually do anything or will it just be talked about among intellectuals and then put away in a filing cabinet?

I question this field of study not because I dislike the subject. I enjoy discussing ideas and problems with other people and like to hear their opinions even if they do not agree with mine. I question the field of philosophy when I pick up the newspaper every morning or when I turn on the news or even just talk to another person. It seems that nothing is right in the world, that there is injustice everywhere, and ultimately, there is no hope for a better future. There always seems to be something going wrong. Racism. World War I. The Depression. World War II. Terrorism. AIDS Epidemic. Global Warming. Red Scare. Vietnam War. Hate Crimes. Cold War. 1970’s Oil Crisis. It’s never ending, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

The Holocaust was an atrocious crime against nature where millions of innocent people were killed. When the event came to light, people were horrified, but it eventually happened again in a different form (Rwanda and Darfur should be flashing through your mind right now). Everything that people wrote on genocide did not help prevent it from happening again. So what’s the point? What’s the point if philosophies are not able to help change things significantly in our country or in the world? Do they not work, because governments get in the way? Or have they become irrelevant in today’s world?

Truth and Political Correctness

On Monday we discussed in class whether it is possible for truth to be an element in politics. Disagreements ensued over what the definition of a liar is, and whether someone can be considered a liar if they believe what they are saying whole-heartedly, and are just manipulating truths to meet their aims. I’ve thought a lot about this since class, and began wondering about the role political correctness plays in this lack of truth.

Being politically correct, to the degree that we are now expected to be, is a fairly recent phenomenon. People have to watch their words about whatever they say, and have to be overly careful when making any sort of comment about anyone of a different race, religion, or background from you. Even in writing this blog post, I am feeling the need ingrained within me to maintain political correctness, and will make sure not to use any possibly offensive examples to reiterate my point. As a personal example, I have even noticed that the way my Father criticizes Obama is very different from how he normally criticizes Democratic candidates. He is a staunch Republican, and will usually be quite harsh about the Democratic candidate, but he has definitely toned down his distaste in the case of Obama, which I think is probably because he doesn’t want his political views to be confused for racism. In class we mentioned truths that are never spoken of, such as truths about the diversity level at Rhodes.

With all this being said, has political correctness, instead of being a tool to help bring greater toleration, become something that just forces people, Politian’s especially, to hide the truth? I think so. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people not to use stereotypical or insulting classifications about certain groups in society, but its gotten to a ridiculous point where those issues can’t be discussed as freely. People may shut their mouths, but that doesn’t mean their views have changed. Politian’s have had to learn to be much more highly calculated on what they say and don’t say than ever before, because this is an age where accusations run rampant.

I Don't Want to be Under Palin's Umbrella Ella Eh..

After a heated Sarah Palin discussion last week, I knew I wanted to address the topic in a blog but was unsure how to approach the issue. My feminist theology class covered several more specific points concerning Sarah Palin, which I found interesting in comparison to our classes. Feminist theology reconsiders the traditions, theologies, and practices of religion from a more focused female perspective. Power as we have learned this semester can be applied and used to measure issues of control and behavior but defining power is difficult just as defining politics is. Sarah Palin falls into both these categories and the juxtaposition of the two class discussions proved extremely informative. 

The theology class covered readings from Dawne Moon's God, Sex, and Politics which led to a discussion on politics being negotiated in terms of power, privilege and hierarchy. Politics often denaturalizes, way of exposing how power functions in our lives, and I believe Sarah Palin has fallen victim to this in several areas. The media is prevalent beyond imagination in the current campaign and has made issue of several things I believe to be non issues. For example, the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's seventeen year old daughter has now graced the cover of US Weekly and several other 'gossip' magazines. Bristol Palin's pregnancy should not have received the coverage it did but I believe it has given a better understanding of Sarah Palin. 

The family hierarchy works off of a structure that is obviously being implemented by Palin in which abstinence on the education of pregnancy may have affected Bristol's situation. Would she be pregnant if she had been properly informed? Did she know how to use protection? Is she being drawn into the institution of marriage simply because of her pregnancy? In our philosophy discussion Palin seemed to be holding an 'umbrella' over all religious truths versus the scientific truths. I believe this issue belongs in a home and not political sphere. 

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mr. President Goes to Hollywood

On Tuesday night I went to a lecture for my art history class. The last thing I would have expected was for it to give me an idea on what to write about for my blogging. The lecture was on a painting titled President Elect which contains a picture of President Kennedy. During the lecture, the art historian Dr. Michael Lobel said that by the 1960’s, politics had become advertising; our nation was being sold Presidents.

His remark reminded me of the class discussion we had the other day on Sarah Palin and presidential elections. I had mentioned how degrading it was for the United States to have its Presidential candidates try and appear like celebrities to try and win votes. And answering questions like what music they like or who their favorite actors or actresses are is pointless, since it does not address the important issues of our country like national security or the plight of the economy.

It seems that with each presidential election, the candidates are becoming more concerned about trying to win votes not by their platform of ideas but by their image. It is almost like ideology is becoming less and less relevant in the presidential elections. In Freeden’s book, he says that ideology can never cease to exist in the world (38). But can it stop existing in the sphere of elections in the United States? Will we one day be voting for a candidate, because they are more handsome or because they like Prada instead of Gucci?

Presidential elections have also gotten more media coverage over the past few elections, and people seem to be getting more interested in voting and elections. Now this could be, because of the state that our country is in right now. Again, our economy is doing poorly, and the Iraq War is a mess. Or could it be, because presidential elections have become to resemble the Hollywood scene more, since we get to read about stuff like the juicy details of the candidates’ families?

I feel like people are more interested in presidential elections, because they deal less with issues people want to ignore (is there global warming?) and more with our consumer driven-pop culture. I have seen the candidates for this election on People magazine where they willingly get interviewed and also on TV talk shows like the View or the Ellen Degeneres Show. By doing this, the candidates are able to reach a larger audience and possibly get these people inspired to participate in the elections, but at what expense? The presidential candidates avoid talking about the tough issues, because people do not want to read or watch something that reminds them of the problems or conflicts in our country. So, over time people could begin to vote more and more for a candidate not entirely based on what ideology they believe in or what issues they believe in, but for whose image they like best. It would be the downfall of our nation if over time our presidential elections practically reduced themselves to resemble class elections in schools where kids vote for the most popular kid not because that kid will do anything for them but because he/she is cool.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Icky Election

In a world that feeds on power there is no greater position of power currently than being elected President of the United States. Our president controls the most powerful military in the world and their actions are scrutinized by billions around the world. Given these facts, it is surprising that all U.S. presidential elections haven't had the enthusiasm that the current one has exhibited. 

Why is the current election so dramatic? Why is the election so polarizing? It seems that most everyone has an opinion about our two main choices: McCain and Obama. There do not appear to be many people who are undecided. Everyone has there reasons. Often, these reasons come through "sound-bytes" from television advertisements. Unquestionably, each candidate can spin a story that makes his adversary out to be something just shy of a three-headed monster. Why? We have had a bad economy before. We are at war more years than we are at peace, or so it seems. Yet, this doesn't seem to excite the country... or polarize it... as the current election. 

I wonder about racism. Is that underlying thread in this election that is polarizing so many people? The strangeness i that no one would ever admit to such a thing. It is so unpopular to say that one is racist. However, I am not sure about the frequency of latent racism in our country, and would it be such an odd thing? There are countless examples in the world of groups of people hating people with whom they live as neighbors: Jews versus Muslims, Sunnis versus Shiites, African tribal warfare, to name a few situations. Racism doesn't die because it is socially or politically incorrect. 

Our past is very complicated, and it comes back to power. We (whites) have always had all the power. We have even been slow to give power in the form of management/ownership positions to African Americans in sports, where they have excelled for generations. How could it be easy for us to give an African American the most powerful position in the world by electing him president? If racism can't die, it would be wonderful if we could at least confront its reality (and our fears about it) and vote for who we believe is the most qualified to get the job done. That would be an easier decision, in my opinion. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 Spindel Philosophy Conference

This coming weekend is the annual Spindel Philosophy Conference at the University of Memphis. This year's theme is "Race, Racism and Liberalism in the 21st Century." Speakers include some of the best philosophers working in race theory and political theory today, including Linda Martin Alcoff (Syracuse University), Bernard Boxill (University of North Carolina), Kathryn Gines (Vanderbilt University), Howard McGary (Rutgers), Charles Mills (Northwestern), Paul Taylor (Temple), and Naomi Zack (University of Oregon).

The Spindel Conference runs from Thursday evening (Sep. 25) through the end of the day on Saturday (Sep. 27). A full schedule for the conference can be accessed here. All sessions will be held in the Fogleman Executive Center on the campus of the University of Memphis. You can access a campus map here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Keeping proportionality proportional

Freeden describes proportionality as “the relative space within each ideology allotted to a particular theme, or cluster of concepts” and relates it to “how an ideology wishes to present its arguments” (64). His example is libertarians: Libertarians claim to be part of the liberal family, yet they overemphasize liberty while de-emphasizing other themes of the ideology, such as sociability, progress, and rationality. This unequal distribution places more importance proportionally on liberty than analysts of liberalism would agree with. However, it also gives libertarians the chance to present their views to audiences apart from mainstream liberalism.

In this way, proportionality has much to do with making an ideology appeal to the masses. The proportions in which certain themes are presented will either catch the attention of the targeted audience or push the audience away. Since the success of ideologies is based on their abilities to “muster significant groups that will assist them in their endeavor to capture control over political language and collective decision making,” ideologies want to proportion their themes in a way to maximize public interest (69). In this respect, certain themes that appeal to an academic audience cannot be too prominent or the average Joe won’t understand. Likewise, the themes cannot be so watered-down that the more advanced audience is bored. The balance in proportion is a crucial aspect in the success or failure of an ideology.

This idea of proportionality seems tricky when it comes to thin ideologies of which Freeden addresses in Chapter 7. A thin ideology is one that has an identifiable yet restricted morphology (98). Unlike a macro-ideology with many concepts, a thin ideology takes a few concepts and focuses heavily on them. With thin ideologies proportionality can go one of two ways: Either there are several concepts that are relatively equal, or, due to the limited number of concepts to begin with, one concept takes over the ideology and becomes its soul focus. The problem with this second situation is that thin ideologies with only one concept will appeal to less people. If the proportionality is so skewed that only one concept is being promoted then only people who agree with that one concept are going to be interested in the ideology. Already, all the people who disagree with the concept are going to reject the ideology because there is no other concept for them to agree with.

Proportionality provides organization for ideologies. It allows them to parcel out importance to their concepts in order to attract the greatest audience. For thin ideologies this is more difficult because they have fewer concepts to organize. It would seem that proportionality favors macro-ideologies because they have more concepts to proportion and benefit greater than thin ideologies where proportion becomes too skewed to be affective.

Tolerance: is it realistic?

I left class on Friday feeling a bit displeased after the subject of tolerance was brought up. It seems that the majority of the class believes that America is a tolerant country. Yet, other countries are not. But is it realistic? Is America really a tolerant country? If so, then why are there so many issues, such as abortion, being argued in the political world? If we are tolerant, why can’t the pro-life group continue to support those who are pro-life and agree to the pro-choice group continue with their agenda? Why must illegalizing abortion be such an issue? What about missionaries going to different countries trying to implement Christianity on others? Is that being tolerant?

I disagree with the notion that America is as tolerant as many seem to think. I sense that tolerance only work when it is towards ones self-interest. It is only easy to be tolerant if an issue does not directly affect that person, or if it is an issue that that person is apathetic about. Once a person cares about a subject matter, that person loyalty to his/her argument will cause biased towards that certain view and he/she will find it hard to tolerate different viewpoints. Also, if a person is around people who have similar thoughts on one subject, it is easier to say that he/she is tolerant of the subject because that person position has not been tested nor directly confronted with opposing outlook. For example, many classes at Rhodes have very specific topics. Some of these topics might cause some controversy. However, if a class has only similar groups of student, and no one who disagree with the mass majority, it is hard to decide whether the class is being tolerant of the idea or simply because the idea has not been tested.

We have been taught to be tolerant, but we have also been taught to stand up for our beliefs. But aren’t those two ideas conflicting? I imagine these two are clashing point of views, and it seems that standing up for what you believe in usually always wins. When an idea isn’t complementing one’s self-interest, it is easy to deviate from the “tolerance” stand point. To stand up for ones beliefs and try to prove a point or persuade the other person to believe in the same views seems to be done more.

Saying that you are tolerant is almost as similar to being what Dr. Johnson often called a “lazy relativist”. A lazy relativist is a person that thinks that nothing is absolute and everything is right, therefore there’s no absolute truth, in turn saying that everyone can have their perspective and there is no need for arguments. Being tolerant means you have to respect other people’s ideas and that they can have their perspective and you can have yours without going into a fight. I feel that these two ideas are quite similar. Tolerance is just a nicer euphemism.

The idea of tolerance is a bit naïve in my opinion. It does seem like a great concept. However, to successfully put your beliefs aside and truly tolerate someone else’s without being somewhat judgmental is awfully difficult. I realized not all situations are black and white, however, after class on Friday, I felt like everyone made America sound like such a tolerant country, and I just wanted to point out, maybe, a different point of view.

The Problem with Proximity and Party Loyalty

According to Michael Freeden, ideologies define political concepts in terms of proximity. Otherwise, political concepts “make no sense on their own” (Freeden, 61). In the United States, the two dominate ideologies for the political system are conservatism and liberalism. Conservatism is obviously related to the Republican Party and liberalism is related to the Democratic Party.

For example, same-sex marriage does not mean anything by itself. However, if the political concept is put into proximity to the ideology of conservatism, it is defined as “unnatural” and therefore should not be made lawful in the United States (Freeden, 88). Put into proximity to liberalism, same-sex marriage is a social advancement and should be made legal.

However, party loyalty undermines the disclosure of political concepts to different ideologies. Party loyalty is a dominant aspect of the two political parties in the United States, and it destroys political concepts from coming into proximity with other ideologies other than conservatism and liberalism. If a politician is loyal to his party and thus ideology, then he is more likely to be promoted in his party. So, party loyalty suppresses other ideologies, because politicians are in the end trying to do what is in their own best interest: gaining power, money, and prestige.

So, without introducing other ideologies to help execute political concepts, political concepts are not able to evolve and change as fast into a better concept. Two heads are better than one, but three heads are even better, and so it is with ideology. Now, I am not saying that we should introduce other macro-ideologies like communism to help define political concepts but micro-ideologies would be beneficial (Freeden, 78 & 94). With more versions of a political concept being discussed, the more likely a better solution or decision can be made on that particular political concept.

Is America really safe?

After 9/11, our country was flooded with a sudden amount of securities. Those securities that had affected us one way or another are airport securities. Airport securities have transformed the way we travel. No longer can we bid farewell to a love one at the gate, now we have to stop at the security gate. Our sense of privacy is infringed by the constant inspections, anything from taking our shoes off to ripping our suitcase apart. However, are these security measures really making us safer or is it just a false sense of security?
Yes, when we are walking through the airport, we do indeed feel more secure. You feel this way because of all the restrictions that is implemented on what you can or cannot bring. Though in my opinion, this is just a veil to reassure citizens that they are safe from attack. If one would look closely, it is not impossible to smuggle something illegal into the airplane if one would just sit and think about it for a minute. It does not take much to blow up a plane and it can be easily undetectable because metal detectors cannot pick up these materials, since it can easily be plastic explosives. So no matter how many shoes you take off, or how many metal detectors you go through, passengers can still take explosive materials into the airport if they really want to. Also, take into considerations of all the food vendors that are in the airport. I doubt that every single one of these places has been under the scrutiny of checking for any forms of harm to the passengers. In addition, what about airport workers? How strictly of a background check did they go under? There really is no way we can be 100 percent sure that they are of no harm to airports passengers.
Though I do believe we are safer than we were before 9/11, what I do not agree with are all of the forms of securities that we have. I think that the government is creating a false sense of security. Many people are simply looking at these exaggerated appearances of security and using it as a shield against any kinds of attacks. They do not want to have to worry about being in danger, so by depending on the securities provided by the government, they feel more secure. Because the government does have so much power, the people tend to forget their own sense of power, and do not questions whether these new actions are infringing on our rights.
So are we really that safe? No, but if these extreme measures can’t keep us safe of terrorist attack, what more can we do? Do we have to compromise our rights even more or are there something better out there that can keep us from harm and at the same time, giving us our rights?

Proof of Proximity

We learned from Michael Freeden that political concepts make no sense on their own, which is where proximity comes into play. We think of proximity as a relative closeness, and the definition of proximity referring to ideologies really is not much different. Proximity means that an ideology can only be fully understood when studied within a particular realm of ideas. What we refer to as freedom in the United States is not the same as what freedom is thought of in different cultures, such as in the Middle East. Ideologies play different roles in different settings.

Proximity of ideologies could be a possible answer as to why political systems around the world are designed so differently, and in turn what the consequences for these differences mean for the well being of their citizens. An example of an ideology that applies to this topic is democracy. Democracy exists on a spectrum, going from less democracy (i.e. autocracies) to more democracy (i.e. liberal democracy like the United States has). Not only are there different levels of democracy, but also different ways of thinking about democracy. One could think of democracy abstractly—as an ideal, a utopia. Then there is a practical way of thinking about it as a way and means of realizing justice and equity. Lastly, it could be thought of concretely as a balance sheet between past and current efforts.

The complication does not end there. There are different aspects of democracy that are viewed as vital in some societies and trivial in others. Political accountability, competition, and civil rights are just a few that we consider crucial in America. Other places put more emphasis on social movements, quality of leadership, and the system of institutions. We could go on to debate what each of these factors truly signifies as well, but that is not the point. The point is that democracy, a political ideology, does not make sense unless examined within a certain environment with its other ideologies that can be used for comparison. This is what proximity means for all other ideologies as well.

Proximity is an essential feature of Wittenstien’s language game, which we studied a few days ago. Words are like signs that represent something, and they only make sense when compared with other signs. Ideologies can only be understood when observed with their proximate counterparts; otherwise, they would not make any sense. Thus, ideologies are relative.

Friday, September 19, 2008

With power comes responsibility. Or does it?

“With power, it is said, comes responsibility. If we are powerless to do or bring about anything, we cannot be accountable or answerable for anything.”(Sovereignty: evolution of an idea. Robert Jackson). Jackson goes on to say that governments like Canada or other minor powers are clearly not responsible for upholding international peace but rather, it is the sole responsibility of the major powers, such as the United States, to uphold world peace. There are several issues embodied in these concepts so lets start at the beginning.
Saying that “with power comes responsibility” implies that if someone has significantly less power than someone else then they are completely free of responsibility, from preventing wrongdoing or ensuring safety. This concept is equally applicable to individuals, societies, and countries. To better understand, let us examine this theory in a different scenario. If the building you are in catches fire, and some of the other residents who are incapacitated are trapped inside, and you are powerless to stop the fire, what do you do? Are you powerless and therefore leave, hoping the firefighters are able to save the poor trapped residents? No. You do what you can to save these individuals even though you are “powerless”. Canada may not have near as many troops as the U.S., but that does not negate responsibility. Supporting other nations in an attempt to fulfill one’s responsibility would be one practical and acceptable solution. Relative levels of power should change nothing but tactics.
Another major problem of this theory is the role and responsibility given the major powers. Allotting them with the specific responsibility of maintaining world peace and security can be a very dangerous proposition. Interpretations for what constitutes world peace could be very unpleasant, akin to a powerful tyrant taking it upon himself to impose “his” version of world peace on the world. There are even more possible and questionable interpretations for maintaining “security”. Under this philosophy any country with considerable power, enough to be considered a major power, becomes obligated to meddle in other countries’ affairs, enforcing its interpretation of peace and security. Under this philosophy, it is the right of the U.S. to attack and destroy any country that does not conform to a “peaceful” manner, or who disturbs its security or control. Under this philosophy, the U.S. can manipulate and conform other countries to its will under the context of keeping global “security”. This view says that the U.S has been fully justified in every war and foreign conflict in which it has engaged. The actions taken by major powers for the “greater good” are reflected in the words of Shakespeare “We are oft to blame, and this tis too much proved, that with devotion’s visage and pious actions we do sugar over the devil himself.”
In closing, one’s power or lack of power does not negate or change the nature of one’s responsibility. Having power doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in the name of peace, and not having power does not excuse you from action.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Health Care a Right or Privilege?

Is health care a right or privilege? First, one must make the distinction between health and health care. To have one's health is a privilege. Similarly, the Declaration of Independence does not state that everyone has the right to happiness. Rather, everyone has the right to the 'pursuit of happiness.' Many people may choose not to pursue happiness. That is equally their right. Applied to health care, one might argue that someone who chooses not to live a healthy life style has made the choice not to pursue their health. Thus, they have given up their right to health care. In this context, the right to health and, therefore, health care, becomes a thorny question. However, this premise is flawed when applied to health and health care. 

The pursuit of health most commonly requires access to health care. One may have chosen to eat poorly, exercise infrequently, and become obese with other medical conditions. If this is same chronically ill person chooses to change his life, he will most likely require access to health care. The chronically ill are often disenfranchised because they have lost jobs or not well educated. They are much more likely not to have the income of their healthy counterparts. It becomes a vicious cycle with a downward spiral. The sicker one becomes the less likely they are to have the means to work and make enough money to afford health care. Without health care, they cannot get the treatment to become healthy and get back to work or living a fulfilled life. 

The measure of a great nation should be in its ability to care for its people. A great nation should give its people the access to health care and the chance to live full lives. Access to health care allows a person who (by his own choice or not) has become ill or downtrodden by poor health the chance to gain back his/her vitality. It is an obligation of the rich (the 'haves') to provide health care for the less fortunate (the 'have nots') such that all can pursue their 'right to health.' There is absolutely no greater gift a nation, through its government and the vote of its people, can give than this inalienable right. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sovereignty

Power determines the ruler from the ruled, strong versus weak, or dominant versus suppressed. Power exists in almost all species, and humans are no exception. Power is often dictated by strength. Teleologically, strength as power enhances the species. The strongest male lion mates with all the females of the region. The offspring should be stronger. Through the middle ages it was similar in many human societies: they were ruled by the strong. However, what happens if the strongest lion is not very smart at finding food or water for his pride. Perhaps his strength codes genetically with the fatal flaw that wipes out the entire group. 

Similarly, sovereign nations exist in many forms. Granting sovereignty does not confer success or failure upon a nation. There is nothing inherently good or bad about the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty implies a social order that allows for independent government. How one grades the success of sovereignty, as a concept, is open for discussion. Many nations, granted sovereignty, have performed atrocities on a grand scale. 

Finally, the results of nation-building have been very mixed. Colonial Great Britain divided up a large part of the world and artificially declared boundaries and sovereignty upon nations over the past two centuries. People who had nothing in common, and who did want to live together, were bound as one sovereign nation. The results have led to numerous civil wars, genocide, and other horrible atrocities. Granting these nations sovereignty did little to help the people living within their confines and harmed many. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Independence Day

After talking in class, I started to wonder what could bring the world to unite and forget about our individual sovereign powers. I couldn’t think of anything that could make the entire world become one.

A couple days later, the movie Independence Day was on TV. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s centered around an alien attack of the whole world. Many countries were in contact with each other, trying to decide how to protect the society of mankind; completely forgetting their differences so that they could formulate some kind of plan for this unbelievable war that was coming to them. Military forces from different countries came together to provide defense. Would a threat common to the world bring us together? Could our country act in alliance with other countries completely? Could each sovereign state set aside their individual ideas about how to rule and band together to form one sovereign, ruling one body of people?

Each sovereign state rules how they want: they enforce what they want, they appoint rulers how they want, and they essentially have nobody telling them what to do. Would we be able to forget how we do things to help the common welfare of the world? Part of me says that we would be too selfish and would want to act in a way that would make us feel dominant. (us meaning the United States) For example, Russia could have a completely different tactic to deal with this situation than the United States might.

Would it even be possible, if the world wanted to, to band together and fight, considering communication barriers and the fact that all militaries in the world are trained in combat differently?

I think that it would happen just as it did in the movie. We would ignore all differences because when it comes down to it, everyone wants to live, and when lives are at threat, the world would choose what’s best to stay alive. The real question is: would we continue to be united once the threat was gone? In WWII, we united with Great Britian, and now we are each our own sovereign. I think each sovereign state is so stuck in the way they do things, that it is too late to change how we rule, govern, and act.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Humanitarian Intervention

Robert Jackson believes that sovereign states have the responsibility of preserving the freedom, safety, and dignity of all of its citizens. Upholding these basic human rights can prove to be difficult, especially for populations with governments that have little or no power. These rights, however, should be extended to all people, regardless of whether or not their government can provide them. Citizens of powerful nations are assured these rights. “Failed” nations, however, are not able to guarantee these rights to their citizens.

Sierra Leone
and Rwanda are both considered failed nations, mainly because their governments do not posses the power to control the activities inside their borders. The conflict surrounding blood diamonds in Sierra Leone, which started in 1991, has resulted in the rape, torture, and death of tens of thousands of people. The conflict is ongoing. Rwanda has faced similar problems. In 1994, an attempt at ethnic cleansing resulted in the death of over half a million people. The citizens of Sierra Leone and Rwanda were left defenseless against the violence that was unleashed upon their countries because sovereign nations across the world chose not to help them. These sovereign nations should be held responsible because it is their duty step in and preserve these human rights.

Jackson
brings up a good point: sovereign states must balance the responsibility of defending the rights of citizens in other nations with the responsibility of handling their own citizens. But, this does not always mean that the citizens of sovereign nations should always come first. In almost every case, problems involving the mass killing of innocent people outweigh the every day problems faced by the people of sovereign nations. Sovereign nations must posses the ability to judge the problems of the world and decide to handle the most significant problems before the ones considered trivial in comparison.

In a way, sovereign nations “failed” by not attempting to solve the situations in Sierra Leone and Rwanda. In the future, sovereign nations must find it necessary to handle similar situations in failed nations that threaten the freedom, safety, and dignity of their citizens.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Power Within

Something I think these discussions haven't touched is the power within societies, the way order is imposed within these sovereign nations. The justice system, administration, overwhelming bureaucracies, correctional facilities; how and why did they form. It is interesting the way society in general feels entitles to judge and question the actions of others. Where did this authority come from? Who decides what measurement makes drug possession a misdemeanor or a felony? 

The argument that the needs of many outweigh the needs of one and this is a basic principle the masses of civilized nations accept. There are, of course, those renegade criminals who show us what a world where everyone did what felt best for them would result in. One could make the definite argument that in order for societies to operate those individuals must sacrifice some of the freedoms we consider basic. 

To add some academic merit to this argument I quote an episode of the social mockumentary The Office, in an episode where Michael Scott poses the question, "Who should be the judges and juries of society?" to which Angela replies, "...judges and juries." Is she right? In America, we don't pick our peers and we certainly don't pick our juries; if you were on trial how comfortable would you feel relinquishing your "sovereignty" to total strangers who just happen to be members of your society? 

It is certainly unsettling to think that one may be judged by someone with equal or greater flaws than themselves. Nonetheless, no superior model has super ceded the present one and we are forced to rely on the injustice of our justice in order that order may be preserved.  

Friday, September 5, 2008

My Logic in Sovereignty: A Brief Criticism

Humans need law, order, and structure to coexist ideally. The most important rights of every person are their rights to freedom, happiness, and life, and in many cases, the border-struggles betweeen sovereigns directly interfere with these innate liberties. Every American celebrates Independence Day in order to commemorate the founding of the United States of America, but in the end, the thirteen colonies were presented a very fortunate opportunity which was taken advantage of. On the other hand, China has held military control of the area known as Tibet for more than forty years. Tibet has never let down their struggle for independence, yet the relatively small area is no match for the Chinese insurgence. If the United States deserves or has the benefit of sovereignty, then it seems only fair that Tibet deserves it as well. The example presents the concept of sovereignty as inadequate in the order humans need to be endowed their most basic rights and the structure to keep these sovereigns in check within and outside their borders.

From the general view of it, the concept comes down to a basic power struggle. In terms of internationality, every country is equal in its sovereignty, but obviously not in power; therefore, the fight for independence or the expansion of borders is just a macrocosmic pecking-order. America overpowered Imperial Britain to become its own entity, while China overpowers Tibet to deprive them their freedom. No process is set into place for gaining independence because the implementation of such a system would directly contradict the idea of sovereignty itself. Is it truly alright to leave conflict up to tanks and guns? Internally, sovereignty abandons those who are oppressed by their sovereign leader. Saddam Hussein was allowed to reign for thirty-four years, depriving his citizens of education, embezzling needed money into his lavish lifestyle, and slaughtering thousands for merely stating a thought. Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe, and many other examples are left unchecked by the world at large. The United States has used its power to defeat Hussein, but what about the other millions that are left to their poverty, terror, and sorrow?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

authoritative comfort

A common theme of both the medieval and modern periods seemed to be that of comfort. Whether it is a hierarchy with God as the reigning factor for one’s actions or that of a sovereign mindset characterizing our daily lives in more aspects than one, many people flock to the idea that someone will dictate their decisions. Having an authoritative guide relieves the people of their own responsibilities, and they become subjects to the ways in which the society is being ruled. Jackson continues this thought as he states, " supremacy and independence cannot exist separately." (12) In both the medieval and modern periods, the people take to this idea in their governments and act as puppets to the guidelines being laid before them. One cannot escape sovereignty, as it is a natural tendency of society. You can only be ruled by something if it is sovereign, which is convenient since some people are looking to surrender their control.

Although there will be those people that do not catch on to the craze or popular cliché everyone is doing it, and they will rise to the top in an attempt to overcome what has been before them.
I recognize that there is a difference between authoritative comfort, and that extensive power. If you think about the Middle Eastern women and the trials that are faced before them, they probably are not searching this treatment out. Although this is true, sovereignty in the state still exist among the people and these women are to abide by the rules.

Although it is not true in all countries, this comfort will continue to exist, even if sovereignty doesn’t. Especially in the U.S., people rely on the concepts of their leaders as people to surrender their decisions, to blame when things don’t go smoothly, to curse when they don’t have the money, and the list continues.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A basis for modern society?

Its funny realizing that sovereignty is the basis of most of our existence, or the way we live. At first sovereignty seems to be just a way of governing or ordering society, but as you read and learn more about it, it slowly reveals itself to be largely responsible for all our modern technology and science. Without sovereignty, it appears humans would not have been organized enough to make break through after break through. Sovereignty provides protection to the individual from the masses of outsiders. Moreover, it protects the communities that these new ideas and ways of thinking sprout out of. Without this base of order, man would have fallen into a simple pattern that did not promote growth. Coming to this conclusion, one thinks of the native peoples of countries that were colonized by these new sovereign nations. Those natives, in most cases, were living simple lives that fit them into the natural order of life. Once these peoples' nations became sovereign, they were usually stripped of their way of life and forced to change (i.e. Native American's). Now even though sovereignty has promoted the new ways of life, it is seen here to destroy a simple existence to promote growth. On the one hand we have sovereignty helping a nation and people grow, and on the other we see how the more simple people are abused and pushed below the more "advanced" ones. This is not always the order of things, and it is not that way now, but that is only because most of our world is now divided up into sovereign nations, but the ride up to that point was a bumpy one. In fact, we can see today where unclear borders are still a cause for war, yet when people stay within their own territory, there is no cause for alarm. Yet before sovereignty caused this great evolution, man was a simple creature that did not shape the world around him and life was governed by nature. It begs one to ask weather losing that natural order was worth all we are offered in modern society, especially when looking at what our way of life is doing to the environment around us.