Imagine There’s No Countries . . .

Considering the Possibility and Practice of Global Citizenship

Archive for February, 2009

Week for Peace feat. Dr. Laura Nader

Posted by mayacu on February 23, 2009

Dr. Laura Nader, internationally renowned anthropologist and Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley since 1960, was the final keynote speaker on Friday for University of the Pacific’s “Week for Peace.” Her speech, titled “Peace and War: What the Rest Think of the West,” gave insight into historical and current outlooks on the “west” and the interactions between different governments, cultures, and peoples around the world. Dr. Nader emphasized that she did not expect the peoples of the world to ever unite in peace as one big, happy family, but she challenged everyone to at least peacefully coexist. She said, you do not have to like, agree with, or approve of your neighbors, but don’t kill them. It’s as simple as that. She questioned the utopian hope that someday the world would be free of war altogether, but she demanded that no matter what, it is a horrific and unnecessary part of war to kill civilians. Her lecture was poignant and humorous and, in the end, hopeful. Here she is, a 78 year old woman, still teaching and learning from different people around the world and encouraging everyone to be aware of others and accept them for who they are! She pointed out that we can only do what we can and that is our best. Every action, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, somehow makes a difference. Why be a pessimist in such a world when being an optimist is really what breaks the norms and challenges us to see things in a different way? It’s easy to be pessimistic; it’s optimism that takes work and is more rewarding in the end. Dr. Nader provided an insightful perspective on issues around the world today and left those who attended her lecture with many interesting ideas to ponder and discuss about universal human rights, war and peace, and how we interact with and react to people we encounter everyday and people we will never meet.


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India: Design Like You Give a Damn

Posted by jonthepackardman on February 20, 2009

Hello everybody… this week I’d like to talk to you about an amazing international program that I came across in a Frontline World piece, India: Design Like You Give a Damn. Architecture for Humanity brings together hundreds (if not more) of architects wanting to change the world, one community at a time. Every year the group holds a contest to see who can come up with the best design for a particular community, based on their needs as well as those of the area around them. In addition, the group raises funds in order to implement the designs – that money in turn goes to local community members who aid in the building process, thereby generating additional revenue in these poor areas.

Frontline also followed one woman in particular who moved to India solely for the purpose of aiding Tsunami victims from 2004. She has designed and implemented 12 community centers! All of which have become the center of community life, as they are used for childcare, school, weddings, and other community events. These people are truly making a difference in the world when it comes to humanitarian issues. However, these architects are also keeping an eye on sustainability as well! They are sure to design buildings that have a minimal impact on the environment and which require less energy (among other things).

These architects are aware of the world around them and the challenges that others face on a daily basis. They’ve taken responsibility and actively participated as fellow citizens of the world by coming to the aid of the needy and pooling resources (monetary and design skill) in order to design and implement what they’ve created.

Bravo Architecture for Humanity. Your work does not go unnoticed.

Feel free to look into this organization for yourself – they have several active projects.

*FYI: The organization’s motto is: Design Like You Give a Damn

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A Goodreads Review of Hans Schattle

Posted by bklunk on February 19, 2009

The Practices of Global Citizenship The Practices of Global Citizenship by Hans Schattle

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Schattle interviewed people (mostly in English speaking countries) who have been identified in the media as “global citizens. He sees the emerging practices of these people as creating a public space for the expression of notions of citizenship not strictly tied to one’s passport state. His methodology is mostly opaque and in some sections he seems not to have seen what was right in front of his face.

View all my reviews.

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The Geothe and Caneti Connection

Posted by rfrankl on February 18, 2009


In dearth of any ideas for a blog I searched “Cosmopolitism” and what popped up was a gem: an article published way back in ‘81 on a German Jewish writer who exercises a different sort of cosmopolitism than what we have discussed in class. But it is such a gem because it reminded me that cosmopolitanism has a certain charm to it, and in particular an intellectual charm. The intellect starts to bud when it has an unchained curiosity, an interest in what all humans have to say but this only reaches fruition and only has meaning if that curiosity can be exercised, if you can actually talk or read with every human, not the ones you know by chance.

The article was on Elias Caneti, a brilliant Jewish writer who won the Nobel Prize in ’81, who was acutely aware of how patriotism can be deformed into unalloyed brutality. He saw the rise of Hitler and he saw what the people did, not in the name of Hitler but of Germany, and with a belief that it was just and necessary. But this man does not turn from all that is Tuetonic, rather he looks back to the man who formed the German character, Goethe: writing everything from poetry, fiction, memoirs, and travel. It is not the place that Canetti emphasized but rather the importance of words. The idea of world literature, that everyone has a unique and beautiful story to tell and we are bound by our interest in those tales is what Canetti took from Geothe. This has a much warmer feeling to it than that bland and Stoic belief of world citizenship, after all that is the assertion that we should care for all human beings. That is not enough, everyone already agrees to this but the tough question is how to accomplish this. The proposition offered by Nusbaum seems slightly propagandistic and Orwellian. She wants a curriculum change in public education that shoves down the throats of children the vague and ambiguous slogan of world citizenship. This does not solve the problem, we need to be teaching some kind of good not as a final answer but as starting point, a way of insuring that those children will grow up and become not as Orwell said, “a sack to be filled with food” but a human with a head that uses that head to think about the most important things in life: the good, bad, just, and unjust. A way to do this is to make children and future citizens have a profound curiosity channeled through, as Geothe and Caneti feel so strongly, the word and the story. I won’t just go through the Sunday paper and blithely glance at the death statistics from a flood, civil war, or simple poverty but I will cry, get angry, and then do something not because I have been to that country on my luxury jet, not because I have been forced to believe in a cold abstract slogan, but because I have read or heard a story from that far off land and I like them, and I want to continue liking them.

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Anti-semetic Acts Up in London

Posted by mykela1 on February 17, 2009

In London, anti-semetic acts of violence are on the rise according to the Community Security Trust, a NGO that has been tracking anti-semitism in England since 1984. As stated by a recent CNN article, “[t]he group recorded more than 200 incidents in the month of January alone, the highest monthly total it has seen since it began keeping records….” This increase is said to be a direct affect of the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict in the Gaza Strip. But, in order to combat this problem, London hosted it’s first ever international conference to discuss solutions to this issue and ways to fight anti-semitism. People from over 35 countries took part in this two-day forum, and according to the article, most of the policymakers were not Jewish, lending itself as a great example of one of Shattle’s Secondary Principles: Cross-Cultural Empathy.

Posted in cosmopolitanism, global citizenship | 3 Comments »

14,000 Died and Their Tormentors Kept Meticulous Records

Posted by bklunk on February 17, 2009

Trial Begins for Khmer Rouge Leader –

Tuol Sleng is the worst place I have ever been.  The rest of the world had a fair idea of what was going on in Cambodia.  Better late than never, I suppose

The first trial of a senior Khmer Rouge cadre opened Tuesday, 30 years after the end of the brutal Communist regime that took the lives of as many as one-fourth of Cambodia’s population.

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David Longstreath/Associated Press

Kaing Guek Eav, who ran the prison, is facing a trial.

The first defendant is Kaing Guek Eav, 66, better known as Duch, the commandant of the Tuol Sleng prison and torture house, which sent at least 14,000 people to their deaths in a killing field.

The purpose of Tuesday’s hearing is to address procedural issues before court sessions begin next month.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) confessed to journalists before his arrest nine years ago that he had committed atrocities, but said he had been acting under orders and would himself have been killed if he had disobeyed. Known for his brutality, he is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, and with murder and torture in his prison, known as S-21.

Four senior Khmer Rouge officials who were in a position to give those orders are also in custody, but court officials say their trials may not start until next year.

They are Nuon Chea, 82, the movement’s chief ideologue; Khieu Samphan, 76, who was head of state; Ieng Sary, 82, the former foreign minister; and his wife, Ieng Thirith, 75, a fellow member of the Khmer Rouge Central Committee.

The Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. Many Cambodians say they fear that some of the defendants may also die before they are brought to trial, and the tribunal has been providing them the best medical care Cambodia has to offer.

The trials are being held by a hybrid tribunal supported by the United Nations that includes Cambodian and foreign judges and prosecutors in an awkward legal compromise that has drawn criticism from human rights advocates and legal scholars.

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Virtual Worlds mirror Real Worlds

Posted by anequidnimis on February 16, 2009

There was a recent study by Northwestern University that showed that even in online worlds, the tendency to stick close to those in your local geographical area.  In the article the lead researcher, Contractor, is so bold as to claim “It’s not creating new networks. It’s reinforcing existing networks.”  This flies in the face of many assumptions in regards to the supposed cosmopolitanism of many internet communities, but does it really mean anything for those who use over-the-web means of practicing cosmopolitanism?

To me, this research seems to perhaps pass itself off as something that it is not.  Everquest II is in itself only a very small niche in the online community of Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games, a category which is dominated by giants (In regards to active player base) such as World of Warcraft, Second Life, HabboHotel, and Runescape.  Because of this niche factor, as well as the general tendency for online games to have unique cultures and player demographics between them, I can’t honestly give much credence to the study in regards to applying the data to the rest of the userbase in games.  This is not to say necessarily that other games will be more, or less, cosmoplitan in terms of their interactions with others, just that a single study on a single game is hardly conclusive.

But, even if this study was applicable to other online worlds (as I suspect it is to at least some degree), the tendency to stick to pre-existing physical friends and strengthen those relationships over developing new relationships is, I think, nothing to do with actual geographic location.  It’s instead people tending to stick to what and who they know, like in any other matter. People, in general, will hang out with their friends first and more so than people they don’t know.  It doesn’t matter if their friend is in Europe or if they are across the street.  As such, it’s no different in the act of trying to be Cosmopolitan than it is in any issue of daily life.  The key is making the effort to reach out, understand, and befriend others, regardless of geographical location.  Video Games are exceptional at this, as the games themselves throw people together who have an obvious shared common interest: Video Games.   This makes it increasingly painless to befriend those all around the world and start to become familiarized with other cultures.

In short, the idea of virtual worlds being a viable example of cosmopolitanism is still safe and secure behind it’s monitor.

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Score One for the Cosmopolitans or Did Hegel Go Far Enough?

Posted by bklunk on February 11, 2009

Cosmopolitanism, Rightly Understood «

I found this post in the interesting blog Dispatches.  The author takes on the notion that cosmopolitanism is flat and bloodless:

I admit I’m rather biased, having benefited greatly from growing up overseas. But there’s something deeply unattractive about the sort of self-satisfied parochialism that holds any knowledge of the outside world inevitably demeans our appreciation of hearth and home: “To love the deep emptiness of a blue winter sky, or a gnarled oak dangling a tire swing from its twisted fingers; to prefer bacon and eggs really and truly to a croissant: these are the first stirrings of a truly human existence.” I confess a certain weakness for croissants, but that hasn’t compromised my ability to appreciate a hearty Southern breakfast. If anything, exposure to a world outside the United States has done wonders for my understanding of our storied national inheritance. How does one celebrate one’s home without understanding its unique place in the world? How many jaded expatriates have gone abroad and then come back, exclaiming “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone!” Obnoxiously multicultural hipsters raise everyone’s hackles, but real cosmopolitanism sharpens rather than dulls our appreciation of  where we come from.

Is this real cosmpolitanism?

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Robert Mugabe–Global Criminal

Posted by bklunk on February 11, 2009

Why It Matters : Crimes in the Time of Cholera

The US-based group Physicians for Human Rights is arguing that Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, should have charges referred against him to the International Criminal Court:

The argument boils down to this: systematically denying people access to basic health care is not terribly different than holding guns to their heads. If so,they say, why not call upon the same international laws that are normally applied in conflict settings? The United Nations is then obliged to respond comparably in both scenarios—which means mobilizing an intervention akin to those dispatched to the war zones of Kosovo, Rwanda, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and Darfur. If the argument works, it would expand the paradigm for invoking international human rights law.

The UN has reported that thousands of people have died in Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic and tens of thousands more are infected.  The Mugabe government seems to have acted positively to impede doing anything about this public health crisis. 

You can find PHR’s full report on Zimbabwe here.

Whose responsibility is it to respond in a situation like this?

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Italy: One-Way Ticket to Europe

Posted by jonthepackardman on February 11, 2009

After viewing this video on Frontline World, I was amazed to find that Italy is one of few countries, if not the only one, that allows the immigration of persons seeking political asylum into the country. In fact, the Italian Coast Guard and several other government agencies put vast amounts of resources (both money and time) into rescuing the people who sail across the Mediterranean from Africa in search of a better life.

While it may seem that the Italians are welcoming these people with open arms, this is not necessarily the case. While every immigrant’s experience is different, some are greeted with nothing more than a “buongiorno” on the street, and have yet to make any Italian friends. Many have found their experiences in Italy to be rather disappointing, very unlike that which they had expected and heard about in their native lands. While I personally find it rather distressing that these people are not more thankful and come off as ungrateful that the Italian Coast Guard would save them and the country would allow them in instead of deporting them, I do feel sympathy for these escapees. The problem that they are now confronted with is that they miss their families, and have no way of returning home (either legally or not).

It was quite interesting to find that many Italians sort of look-the-other-way in regards to these aliens, however, they do not want them to disrupt their fishing and especially tourist industries. If they did so it would almost certainly mean the end of immigration to the small Island of Lampedusa, which relies heavily on these areas as sources of revenue, as natives would almost certainly be up-in-arms over the immigrants’ impact on the “micro-economy” of the island.

It should not go unnoticed though that the Italian government is leading the way in the European Union, as far as allowing immigrants into the country. Most of the other countries within the union will not even hear of allowing aliens in. Italy has proven to be acutely aware of the humanitarian and political crises of the Middle East and Africa that have yielded such massive amounts of refugees. While Italians as a whole may not have, the government has certainly welcomed them with open-arms (providing food, shelter, and in some cases clothing!) and has taken an active participation in embracing these people – the mark of a government acting as a global citizen.

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