Friday, November 03, 2006

"Halloween in the Hood"

Comment board:

more links to articles:,0,5974361.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

You know, I thought Halloween was supposed to be something fun, it always was when we were younger, but now - I'm not so sure. On my way to work one morning a radio station was asking people to call in about obnoxious costumes people saw out last night... one caller said someone had dressed as a dead amish girl. I almost started crying while I was driving. Then this article was posted by one of my friends on facebook. The comments absolutely sickened me. I was shocked to read the article, because, you would hope that Johns Hopkins University would house students who have awareness of such issues ... but obviously not. And maybe it takes just one student to make a bad rep for the college, but still - hanging a stuffed african american from a roof with a noose ... is this for real? Are we really in 2006 and students (Johns Hopkins!!!!) think that it's "funny" to joke about slavery? This is someone's comment from the comment page "People complain too much. Just shut up and laugh about it once in awhile and stop being so insensitive. It was meant to be funny not racist." Meant to be funny huh ... it's not funny, it's just not at all funny. The fact that someone thinks it's funny makes me so angry, and then utterly sad ... because I only hoped that somehow this world was changing ...

This really hit a personal note for me - I'm in an interracial relationship, and have lost friends because of it. Lost friends, because of who I'm dating. I'd be lying if I said to you all I didn't look around and see color, everyone "sees" color, but not everyone judges color. It has taken me a long time to realize that because of where I grew up, and because of what I have watched on the news, what I once "believed" or thought to be fact about African Americans, or any race, is not what I really believed, but what I was taught and raised to believe. (I hope that made sense.) Society seems to be a breeding ground to make people believe certain things about certain groups of people, whether it's through the media, maybe where you're from - I don't know, and I don't care what the reason is - for me, it's this simple. Maybe I've said this before on the blog, but when I was in sixth grade, my teacher told us, "we're all pink on the inside." We are all pink. I wish people would really take the time to think about that, really think about it. We're all tied together, because we're all humans.

Granted, what happened to certain groups of people will forever be a part of their past, and what happened at Johns Hopkins is inexcusable.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bad teens

Are UK’s teens some of the worst behaved in Europe? This study by the Institute for Public Policy Research seems to suggest so. The article gives a lot of statistics about various indicators of “good” behavior. Some of these include:
- spending evenings out with friends
- eating regularly with family
- marijuana experimentation
- binge drinking
- consumerism
The study then goes on to suggest that “drugs, drink, violence and promiscuity” are some of these “bad behavior” characteristics. I think that this study may have even graver implications.
In an article which we read at the beginning of the year, entitled “Basic Human Needs, Altruism, and Aggression” Ervin Staub proposes a list of needs which every human needs in their life. He then goes on to suggest that the lack of one or more of these needs can increase an individual’s propensity for aggression. Ervin’s list of needs includes:
- physical and phychological security
- personal autonomy and control
- positive sefl esteem
- positive connections and relationships with others
- understanding of reality
It seems that the teens in Europe may be missing some of these basic needs. I absolutely believe that these needs are necessary for the positive development of an individual. In this case, this generation of adolescents in the UK may be little “genociders” in the making. What do you think?

Just one guy's opinion on torture

I know this post might take a lot of heat but im going to write it anyway. When I was eating lunch today I saw a table set up protesting torture in America. Now I don't think torture is right just like I don't think that killing is right, but wIen i think of all those who died in SeptemberI11 i have to think if we had maybe tortured a terrorist and he had told us the plan could it all have been avoided? Now there are many, flaws in my thinking like if we were to detain the wrong person and torture someone who was innocent all along that would be a terrible thing. Or if we were to torture someone who didn't know anything. I don't think torture is right again but in times of war I think in some extreme cases it is necessary to save lives. Now the way in which the government has set up these laws I don't believe is right, every one should have their constituency rights to a lawyer and a trial but if then convicted as a terrorist, I believe the government should do what is necessary to keep the people of this nation from having to deal with another terrorist attack, that killed hundreds of innocent people. This is a new kind of war where the enemy doesn't wear a different color so you can pick them out, and I think this war needs to be fought differently for the safety and well being of American citizens. I know this stance may anger some people reading it and I would love to justify my opinion if you happen to comment.

FGM in the United States?

On Wednesday, November 1, 2006, an Ethiopian man from the United States was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Although the man was of African descent, he was tried in the US, which became the country's first such circumcision case. The Ethiopian man circumcised his 2-year-old daughter with scissors in 2001 and was eventually arrested for his action. The case has recently fueled a debate in Africa where some approve of the punishment while others believe that people should learn to understand the purpose behind female circumcision (or female genital mutilation-FGM). The practice of female circumcision is actually widespread throughout Africa although the United States even recognizes at a reason to grant asylum. About 3 million girls are mutilated or cut each year throughout Africa because it has become a custom to many cultures and is believed to reduce women’s sexual desire and lesson promiscuity. Should those beliefs be worth the possible infection, pain, psychological harm, problems with urination, and complications with childbirth later in life caused by female genital mutilation? Sadly, people accept such a destructive process as tradition, even in the 21st century. But why? How can it occur in the United States?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Human Rights vs. Cultural Norms

Human Rights -- Human Wrongs

Those of you who've taken a class with Professor Billig know how much he loves to mention Lee Kuan Yew. Oxford-educated, Yew was the prime minister of Singapore for over 30 years; naturally, his time in the West gave him a keen insight into the Western mind. "We don't want democracy or free speech in Singapore", he often declared, "we want stability. Who are you to push your cultural norms onto us?" This was hardly tin-pot dictator posturing: Singapore has complete religious freedom, the lowest crime rate in the world and a flourishing economy. In return, they have severely restricted most of the freedoms that we in the West enjoy. Most of you have probably heard about the American kid who was caned there for vandalising cars, or the large fines levied on litterers or even gum-chewers. You may not know that Singapore's laws make it almost impossible to move out of one's parents' home until 25, or that being caught with tiny amounts of heroin can lead to a mandatory death sentence (the title article paints a grim picture; it's a couple of years old, so the exact number may be off, but the spirit is still very much alive).

So what do we do? Lee was castigating "open-minded" Westerners who couldn't accept that some non-Western cultures place a low value on individual liberty. Is that right? Do we tell Singapore that they're violating universal human rights, or do we accept that these people have voluntarily given up what we consider essential because they think something else is more important?


President P.W. Botha, a former South African President died in his home yesterday at the age of 90. He was one of the men in charge for keeping Nelson Mandela behind bars for nearly 30 years. Nelson Mandela was quoted saying "While to many Mr. Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took to pave the way towards the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country," Could you forgive a man who kept you locked up for 27 years of your life?
Zizi Kodwa, a spokesperson for the ANC Youth League stated "We should bear no grudges against people ... We are building a new country. Let's show them that we are human, we are not these terrorists that they said we were before. Let's embrace the spirit of reconciliation." Could you embrace the spirit of reconcilliation toward a man who oppressed your poeple for so long?

China Acts to Reduce High Rate of Executions

Just yesterday China took action to reduce its rate of executions. She is responsible for over 80% of the people put to death every year. The way the reform works is that all death penalty cases are required to go through the Supreme People's Court, a power that was stripped from the Supreme Court in 1983. I am interested to see how well these measures work since China does not have an independent judiciary.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Good New?!

First bit of positive news posted on this blog in quite a while. Charges have officially been brought against the ex-leader of Chile, Augusto Pinochet. He's been put under house arrest for one homicide, 35 kidnappings and 24 cases of torture. It's a start, considering the dictator has been avoiding most charges, claiming his poor health as an excuse to not be brought to justice.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Doctor chops off limbs for beggars

In the United States, it is not very common to find young children with swollen bellies, and maimed bodies begging for money at traffic signals. However, in urban India, this is not an unfamiliar sight. What might surprise people even more is the fact that most Indians are aware of what is known as a "beggar Mafia" that is run by middle-men (known as "babus"). These babus kidnap children, or buy them from their desperate parents who can no longer support them and get them to beg. Often, their limbs are also chopped off to make them seem more sympathetic to the public. However, as if this wasn't enough, the link to this post provides an expose on who actually mutilates these children's bodies. One would think that such acts would be committed by some unqualified, "evil" people. However, in this case, a senior orthopedic surgeon talks about how he has no hassle with chopping off limbs of other human beings.

He speaks of how he can charge up to Rs. 10,00 for every such procedure (approximately $200). Is it then man's greed for money that lets him commit human rights abuses? Are we really that materialistic or is this medical-pracitioner simply evil?

Africa’s World of Forced Labor, in a 6-Year-Old’s Eyes

This is a very unique article about child labor in Africa because it has actual testimony from child slaves, sold into the fishing industry by their parents for as little as $20 a year. It also has quotes from the man who owns these indentured servants. An interesting piece that shows how desperate people can be driven to do evil things. Click on this link to watch a slideshow of pictures accompanied by the journalist's voice-over: