Thursday, April 28, 2016

Weekly Report 7

Etel Adnan is a Lebanese-American poet and artist who appeals particularly to my interest in philosophy as she may also be labeled a philosopher. She received her degree in philosophy from Paris' renowned Sorbonne and later, after coming to the United States, she completed her post-graduate studies in philosophy at Harvard. This was prior to having taught philosophy at several universities over the coarse of many years. She was born in Beirut to a Greek mother who identified as a Christian and a Syrian father who identified as a Muslim and thus, she spoke both Greek and Turkish due to the influence of her parents. However, due to her living in an Arabic-speaking society, she naturally learned Arabic as well. Interestingly, while she would later study in France as earlier mentioned, she was educated at French convent schools in her youth, where she also came to know French. It would later be in French that she would write her first major works. Having mastered Greek, Turkish, Arabic, French and English (due to her eventual move to the United States), one would imagine that her command of language is exquisit. There is proof of this as her work has been heavily awarded the world over. While her cultural experience was an excellent background for both philosophical work and poetry (for which she would come to be known), she felt caught amid the confusion of all of the languages that regularly ran through her mind and thus, she felt that the best way of expression early in in her life, was through painting. Perhaps she felt that she could visually capture the cross of cultures present in her life. Here is an example of one such painting by Etel Adnan:

Being that Adnan received a French education, one can see certain parallels between much of her work and the French Cubist painting that was likely present and popular during the time of her education in France. Perhaps her use of color and shape in the above paining, combined with the somewhat chaotic look of the way the shapes collide is a representation of the clash of cultures? This is an expression of both how artistic and equally, philosophical this poet is. She is currently 91 years old and live in both California and France, depending on the time. It is fascinating that she, being a woman, has such prominence in three fields which have been dominated throughout history by men: Art, Poetry, and Philosophy. 


Lecture by Dr. Vera Jakoby. What is Text?. Writing in the Discipline. Spring 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Weekly Report 6

Alaa al Aswany is an Egyptian writer and political commentator who most notably wrote The Yacoubian Building (which also became a film), among several other published and awarded works.  But only to speak of Aswany's job title or reputation however, is to miss the significance that he holds for Egypt. Before he became a formidable political adversary to the Mubarak regime, he was simply a very well informed and intelligent dentist, who often spoke of politics, corruption, and the lack of ethics therein. In January of 2012 the New Yorker published an article on Aswany, painting a picture of who he is by first describing the scene of one famous debate between he and the prime minister of Egypt Ahmed Shafik, just after the fall of the Mubarak regime. The article notes that unlike Mubarak, Shafik was an accomplished speaker, capable of masterfully turning phrases to fit his ideology. This however, was no challenge for Aswany. Aswany would not allow the prime minister to glance over the deaths of non-violent protesters whom he called "martyrs", pretending as though their lives meant nothing. The New Yorker described him with such words as "bombastic" and "menacing", and this must have been so, as the prime minister stepped down from office on the very next day. This outspoken criticism of the government is something that the Egyptian people were not accustomed to witnessing: or at the very least, not effectively. There were those in Egypt who found his unrelenting questioning of the prime minister to have been disrespectful, but many saw such speech against injustice as empowering. In looking into Aswany's family history, one finds that these revolutionary ideals and the concept of speaking truth to power, seems to run very deeply in his veins. He claims to have had an excellent childhood and speaks very proudly of the revolutionary nature of the work that his father conducted. His father, also a writer, met regularly with other Egyptian intelligentsia to "debate communism and Islam and nationalism" (The New Yorker). It should be noted as well that in his home, which he called "liberal", his mother and her faith had a great effect on his life. He claims that his profound reverence for life, that was evident in his citing of the murdered protesters in his debate with Shafik, was given to him by God, as he experienced his mother's faith. His outspoken nature is however not limited only to the affairs of others; he is also able to acknowledge the flaws wishing his own thought patterns. The New Yorker speaks of his formerly supporting the military, and switching said position due to the fact that the military seemed to have similar ideology to that of the Mubarak regime. This self-awareness and self-criticism is commendable and certainly not common among any public figure. As one Egyptian stated to the New Yorker about Aswany, “After thousands of years and a desert culture like this, this is the father of the tribe,” he said. “He might wear a suit or a pullover like Shafik does, but he’s still the father. This is the mentality. And you don’t question the father.” 

Below is an Al Jazeera interview with Alaa al Aswany: 

Sources Cited:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reflection 6

Dr. Leahy, in speaking of the way in which security policy changed following September 11, 2001, recognized that many of the students in the room at that moment may have been too young to remember the time prior to the start of what many Americans know as the Iraq war. For those of us who do remember that day, the memories of where precisely we were may be as fresh on our minds as though they had just occurred and one can see from her lecture, that Dr. Leahy is no exception to this. Our responses to this tragedy were quite different, however. Naturally, this is first due to the fact that at the time, I was in middle school and was only vaguely familiar "middle-eastern" geography. However, the adults around me at the time seemed no less terrified and no less confused as to why this was happening. While many grasped at what pieces of understanding they imagined they had, Dr. Leahy thought up what, to this day, seems a comprehensive strategy; and of coarse, not the one that the administration took at the time. Her comprehensive three step plan consisted of the following: 1. Cut off aid to Israel until they agree to return to the terms agreed upon in the Oslo Accords, 2. Establish a marshall fund (similar to that granted to Europe after World War II) for Afghanistan in order to help them rebuild and 3. Establish a Truth in Reconciliation Commission, in which the wrongs of the United States to the Arab World could be dealt with. It is important to note here that the original example of a Truth in Reconciliation Commission was established by President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, to be led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This was a way to bring healing to the wounds caused by apartheid in South Africa and was remarkably successful. Naturally, this was not the strategy of the United States and it would likely be laughed off, Dr. Leahy noted, were it not presented in an academic institution. Perhaps it is as Alcoholics Anonymous says: the first step in solving a problem is realizing that there is one.

I am sure that the question would be asked by some, "why should Israel have anything to do with the happenings between the United States and Iraq?" This may be asked due to the fact that many Americans are not family with the extenuating circumstances surrounding the tension between the United States and the Arab World. The United States has unconditionally supported Israel; to the tune of 40% of its foreign aid budget. This aid is not going to a third-world country who could desperately use such funds, but rather to a militaristic nation who have acted as brutal occupiers of Palestine, committing many human rights violations. And Israel, says Leahy, is not the only brutal government receiving funds and weapons from the united states. These themes as well as several others were spoken of in the News Week article by Fareed Zakaria entitled Why Do They Hate Us?.  Among other reasons in the cultural exposure that the United States id responsible for, causing a sort of relative deprivation; causing many to seek a "western" lifestyle, regardless of the possibility of achieving it. The decadence of the United States has greatly influenced the attitudes of those in the Arab World toward the west. Another very important, overlooked stressor to this relationship was the sanctions placed on Iraq after the first Gulf War. The problem with such sanctions is that most often, it effects the poorest among the population: non-combatants who should not be punished for the actions of any government. These are simply a few of the main factors in the strained relationship between the United States and the Arab World. I feel as though the three step approach proposed by Dr. Leahy would have been a position which would have begun to bring healing to the relationship between these nations. I absolutely agree that just as there are Israelis who love their country but disagree with its actions, so we must also be in references to the wrongs which, if not dealt with, will continue to cause problems into the future.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Weekly Report 5

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, is without a doubt, one of the most polarizing political figures in American political history. Recently, Mr. Trump proudly and publicly proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, the monitoring of Mosques across the country by the United States government and a national registration of Muslims so as to know who they are and where they live. These ideas are, at best, unconstitutional and in reality, absolutely un-american. My heart grieves a bit every time I see a Donald Trump sticker on a car or news reports interviewing Trump supporters, who are buying his hateful and destructive rhetoric. As of late, as many of the Republican presidential candidates have been dropping out or suspending their campaigns, these same candidates, who once fought Trump on every conceivable level, now support him. The trouble with this is not just one of political "flip-flopping", but an ethical issue as these powerful conservatives all seem to back the one who promises to "make America hate again", even though the turn of phrase is not so obvious. It is very easy, when looking at this bleak political landscape to feel a sense of hopelessness for our country and particularly, for its relations with others in the international community. The most angst is perhaps felt over the already tumultuous relationship that the United States currently has with the Arab World. There is however, some light at the end of this very long and dark tunnel. Two days ago, The Daily Star (a news source out of Lebanon), as well as others, reported that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is offering s feeling of hope to the Aran World; particularly to the President of Egypt. Being interviewed following a conversation with the Egyptian President, Graham said, "All of us, regardless of what Mr. Trump says or does, we are going to keep being who we are, so don't let the political scenes at home get you too upset. That's what I told the President" (The Daily Star). This seems to suggest that though there is a very strong likelihood that Donald Trump could be the next President of the United States, Congress and the Senate will be standing between Mr. Trump and any unconstitutional propositions that might be made. While this may bring some comfort, and while I acknowledge that there is a system of "checks and balances" in place to ensue that a fascist minded man not reign supreme, the light at the end of the tunnel, in my view, is that conservatives are standing up to this rhetoric. To what degree this problem was created by the Republican party as a result of the presentation of poor and outright false representations of Islam and concepts such as Sharia law, particularly through harmful avenues such as Fox News, is another conversation entirely. It must also be said that it could be that these assurances are too late, as there is a large number of far-right conservatives, who have now been brought to the main stream by this problem which has grown grossly out of hand. I would like to see the response from those leaders within the Arab World, as to Donald Trumps ideology, and that of his followers. Do those leaders and the citizens of Arab world nations feel as though these reassurances are enough? Hopefully, it will be so that no reassurances are needed and peaceful relations may be sustained.

Sources Cited:

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Israel-Palestine Conflict

At the beginning of her lecture, Professor Zaru said that neither Israelis nor Palestinians should live in fear. This statement, while having been made by many humanitarians considering the conflict, holds further weight when considering the things that Professor Zaru has experienced an witnessed. At this time, the Palestinians live under Israeli occupation, being treated as a conquered people. They live under the threat of water and power cut-offs, random curfews, detainment and home destruction, just to name a few. The Israeli government need not give any reason for these measures: they may at times simply be a method of dehumanizing the Palestinian people. Many Palestinians must go through several checkpoints when leaving or returning home, which in times of emergency, may cause many additional problems. It is not surprise that the American media (main outlets) do not report on some of these situations. After all, reports on the Arab World and the tragedies that occur there rarely are reported unless those event effect the American people or their interests. At the moment, many reports seen are concerning ISIS and other terrorist organizations, leaving the Israel-Palestine conflict as the forgotten conflict.
The United Nations has ruled that the building of the wall of separation by the Israeli government violates international law. Thus, to remain within the law, the wall should be removed. The Israeli government has simply ignored this ruling and have continued with this massive, 430 mile structure that is reminiscent of past measures such as the Berlin Wall. The difference is that with the situation in Berlin, Reagan declared to Mr. Gorbachov that he was to "tear down that wall"! And so, with another human rights disaster, the United States not only does nothing, but stands with the nation of Israel, even in situations of ethical violations. Being that the United States is a major player in world politics, and that the United Nations needs it's support for any major measure, this support of Israel must be tempered with reason and equality. The action that the United Nations would need to take to enforce international law on the issue of the wall, would need the support of the United States. Regardless of where the loyalties lie, a ruling has been made, and the United States needs to renew it's commitment to Justice whether domestically or internationally. Thereafter, measures should be taken through the UN and NATO to enforce the ruling made against the wall. Thereafter, there are countless human rights issues to be dealt with in occupied Palestine. Another commitment in the past has been the United States Military's "liberation" in certain parts of the Arab world. While these movements to liberate people have often corresponded with the economic interests of the United States in the way of oil, we have the chance to redeem ourselves in the support of those living in occupied Palestine.
All of this begins with proper awareness and education as to the situation, which often, those in the United States lack.