Imagine There’s No Countries . . .

Considering the Possibility and Practice of Global Citizenship

A Little Global Flatness

Posted by bklunk on April 7, 2009

Moldova’s Twitter Revolution | Net Effect
Read all about it: 

If you asked me about the prospects of a Twitter-driven revolution in a low-tech country like Moldova a week ago, my answer would probably be a qualified “no”. Today, however, I am no longer as certain. If you bothered  to check the most popular discussions on Twitter in the last 48 hours, you may have stumbled upon a weird threat of posts marked with a tag “#pman” (it’s currently listed in Twitter’s “Trending Topics” along with “Apple Store”, Eminem, and Easter).

No, “pman” is not short for “pacman”; it stands for “Piata Marii Adunari Nationale”, which is Romanian name for the biggest square in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital. This is not the first time that a Twitter “tag” has been used to mobilize young people around a particular event; the most famous previous case has been that of “griots” – the tag used to report on the youth riogs in Greece, which later spread to Europe, arguably also with the help of Twitter (chech these two pieces I wrote on the subject of “networked protest” – one for The Economist and one for openDemocracy).

Ever since yesterday’s announcement that Moldova’s communists have won enough votes to form a government in Sunday’s elections, Moldova’s progressive youth took to the streets in angry protests. As behooves any political protest by young people today, they also turned to Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the planned protests and flashmobs. Led by youth NGOs like HydePark and ThinkMoldova, the protests began very peacefully – as a flashmob, where young people were simply supposed to hold lit candles in the vicinity of the square.

However, this morning things got out of hand – and, with or without Twitter’s help, the crowd got much larger, reaching as many as 10,000 people, who first picketed Election Commission headquarters, the president’s residence (windows are reported to be broken – and there are also reports that this building has been stormed), and other government buildings before storming the building of the Moldovan Parliament, which happens to be just across the road. 

Technology is playing an important role in facilitating these protests. In addition to huge mobilization eforts both on Twitter and Facebook, Moldova’s angry youth – especially those who are currently abroad (roughly a quarter of Moldova’s population are working abroad due to dire economic conditions back at home) – could follow the events on this livestream provided by a Romanian TV station – directly from the square.

I’ve just spoken to a Moldovan friend who is himself a big technology fan; according to him, there is little to none cellphone coverage in the square itself (turning off cellphone coverage in protest areas is a trick that was also used by the Belarusian authorities to diffuse 2006 protests in Minsk’s central square), so protesters have to leave it to post updates to Twitter via GPRS technology on their mobiles.

The related posts on Twitter are being posted at a record-breaking rate – I’ve been watching the Twitter stream for the last 20 minutes – and I see almost 200 new Twitter messages marked with “pman” (virtually all of them in Romanian, with only one or two in English). In the last few hours there have also emerged several “smart” aggregators of posts on the subject, like this one – they have to contextualize what exactly is happening — and this one for YouTube videos. Many blog posts are also being updated in real-time – minute by minute – check this one. There are also a plenty of videos on YouTube and photos, including those uploaded to Facebook.

There are also a few moving English-language Twitter posts like this – “in #pman  a grenade thrown by the police has torn apart one of the protester’s leg”-  that would surely be perused by foreign journalists. It’s hard to predict for how long this cornucopia of user-generated media would continue; my Moldovan contacts report that the authorities may have required some Moldovan ISPs to restrict Internet connection with the outside world, so the protesters might soon face difficulties in getting their reports out.

All in all, while it’s probably too early to tell whether Moldova’s Twitter revolution will be successful, it would certainly be wrong to disregard the role that Twitter and other social media have played in mobilizing (and, even more so, reporting on) the protests. Of course, it helps that young Moldovans are sick and tired of the communist government (for a long time the only one in Europe) and there may be a few reasons to be concerned about voting irregularities but, overall, the Chisinau protests undoubtedly present an interesting case-study that I hope academic institutions like Harvard’s Berkman Center and others would take on and examine in detail.


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North Korea launches rocket–missle test, or genuine satellite launch?

Posted by anequidnimis on April 5, 2009

On Sunday, April 5, 2009, as noted here and here North Korea launched a long range rocket that flew over Japan and ended up in the Pacific ocean.  This raises some interesting questions, both on the subject of N. Korea’s actual intentions, and the other nation’s responses.  While I think that, as Iran noted in the first article, that all countries should have the right to enter space, the means that N. Korea is using to try to attain this is highly suspect, given their previous missle launches and nuclear tests.   Analysis of the launch by those who know the difference of ballistics between a long range missle test and a rocket meant to reach space will be key to how the rest of the world reacts.  On that note, the closed door U.N. Emergency session that was called for by Japan, shows that those near to N. Korea are concerned with the actions, China aside who is relatively supporting of N. Korea.  Given that China has a veto on any sanctions that may occur, how the US will respond is still up in the air.

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World Autism Awareness Day

Posted by bklunk on April 1, 2009

Home – World Autism Awareness Day

There are lots of ways to be global citizens.  Participating in World Autism Awareness Day may be one.

First Ladies Message for World Autism Awareness Day

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The Dangers of Nationalism for EU Expansion

Posted by mayacu on March 29, 2009

The current global economic crisis is causing many proponents of the expansion of the European Union to worry. The crisis has led to an increase in “political protectionism,” or nationalism by more economically stable EU states. Plans to offer EU membership to new countries have been put on hold and there is debate as to whether the EU is stable enough to absorb less economically stable countries at this time. The ratification of the Lisbon Treaty would allow new countries to be offered membership, but it must be ratified by all 27 EU member-states. It is unlikely that this will happen soon and even if it does, it will be much longer before any other countries are offered or approved for membership. The European Union is one of the best examples in today’s world of large scale government and regional citizenship. However, this economic crisis has proven that the bonds of regional citizenship can only extend so far. As the threat of economic instability worsens, people become more and more loyal to their native countrymen and nationalistic. This nationalism and individualistic thinking is what is not threatening the unity and stability of the European Union. Despite the EU’s goals of regional unity and regional citizenship, they are now returning to nationalism and loyalty to one state, showing the possible flaws in such a system. When the situation gets dangerous, it’s every man for himself.

Here is the article from Reuters…

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Sudan President upset about ICC warrant throws hissy-fit. Thousands put in jepordy.

Posted by clark128 on March 12, 2009

In case you aren’t already aware dear reader, Sudan is a country in Africa. Within its borders is a region called Sudan, which according to most experts is a terrible vacation spot, due to the rampant disease, lack of food, and constant warfare. The region has received much attention in the media by top name celebrities such as George Clooney, Angelina Jolee, and Bono. It has also been the target of much humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, it seems the aid is getting cut off, which will probably lead to several hundreds if not thousands of deaths.

“But why is the aid going to stop” you may ask yourself. Well, it all has to do with one individual. President Omar al-Bashir.

You see Omar was sitting one day in his beautiful home wondering to himself why anyone would call him a war criminal, and in a moment of serendipity he received a phone call from the Netherlands based International Crimes Court, telling him he had a warrant on his head for supporting a group of warriors to completely wreck Darfur. This made Omar angry! In a rage he fled to his room and wrote about it on his Myspace, then ordered all the organizations aiding the suffering to get out for helping the ICC convict him.*

But wait? Did these organizations help convict the President?

Well, they say they didn’t, but we all know that Doctors without Borders are probably some of the biggest liars on the planet.

So, most of the refugees in Darfur are now in a lot of trouble, as well as a few of the volunteers helping there. You see, recently a group of three westerners were kidnapped by armed guards. President Omar insists that he has nothing to do with it, but his Foreign Minister did mention that the ICC’s ruling would promote “lawlessness”. So, the Sudanese Government DEFINITELY did not have anything to do with it.

Doctors without Borders are a bunch of Liars, and a dictator is the only one telling the truth. I’ll let you be the judge of how much you believe this one.

*President Omar may not have a Myspace;_ylt=AngGQ4WDR0C67ZZlinc4ltVvaA8F

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Cosmopolitanism in Music

Posted by dgreening on March 3, 2009

Once again, the BBC comes up with something really interesting.  The 2006 edition of the Reith lecture series in Berlin, presented by Daniel Barenboim, discusses the part music plays in everyday life.  In his third lecture, Barenboim illustrates a musical equivalent to current global issues and cosmopolitanism.  He asks the question of whether we should want a variety of orchestras from different countries, all naturally adept at playing their native music, or orchestras that all have the same sound, all able to play many pieces by different composers from a multitude of countries equally well.  The present world doesn’t have accepted standards like the ancient world did, and in democratic societies, people see only the rights that come with democracy; very rarely do they also acknowledge the responsibilities.  Essentially this culminates in people making judgements without having to take responsibility for those judgements.  In the context of music, Barenboim worries that people do not have a point of view about classical music, and this will result in it slowly dying out, becuase, as he points out, there is no point in music if one does not have an opinion about it.

However, the most interesting idea came up when Barenboim talked about a piece by Wagner which is well known for the fact that it doesn’t resolve a chord progression, leaving a tense silence before continuing on.  This propagated questions concerning how we define progress, and whether people are afraid of that tension, that moment where no progress is being made and silence prevails.  Our definition of progress works well enough for technology and GDP, but less so for the development as human beings as a whole, and also  one’s own personal development.  Music, then, could also be a starting place for how we define progress.

Finally, the question of music as an esperanto came up.  Music is indeed incredibly accessible to almost all people around the world, but, like language, has so many differing forms it seems inconceivable to think of one single type of music for everyone.  This is a problem for many facets of culture, and demonstrates how far away from a cosmopolitan world we are.  Music is probably is a widely understood form of communication, and to think that even this is in no way close to becoming part of a common world culture, illustrates how very far we still have to go.

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A Well Intentioned Rant on Mrs. Nussbaum

Posted by rfrankl on March 1, 2009

                I now know why the  intellectuals of today are sometimes called the chattering class. They say a whole lot without saying anything at all. They use big words because they want to mask their poor ideas. They obfuscate because if they didn’t, they would be found out. The mask would be taken off and the world would not see a noble knight of knowledge but rather a ninny nitwit. Martha Nussbaum uses such shady logic and slogan-like language and inappropriate allusions and flawed knowledge of America’s past, that if she must be catalogued as one of those all too prolific species of our time: the egg head, a chatterer, and a know-it-all, then she must.

            When making a proper argument about values, beliefs, and principles, if one is to be honest with one’s self and with his audience, he must not compare the best part of a proposed value, belief, and principle with the worst part of some one else’s or vice-versa. You compare the best and most idealized part of what your are arguing for, against the best and most idealized part of someone else’s. If I had a disagreement with a friend over which one of our Presidents was the best and my friend thought that Abraham Lincoln was and I thought Thomas Jefferson was, I would not present my argument as Jefferson let the Alien and Seditions Acts expire, did not raise taxes, opened up the west, and kept the country out of war but Lincoln took away Habeas Corpus. A man who does this is a man who should not be looked up to because he’s putting somebody’s highest accomplishments against another man’s mistakes or another man’s less important acts. Martha Nussbaum engages in this tomfoolery but of course, being a part of that haughty class she would never admit to such a thing, because, that reminds me of the second characteristic of that class, she is a poltroon, a coward, and a mollycoddle, as far as intellectual endeavor is concerned.

            This problem of inappropriate comparison is not even the whole problem. How can we freely and safely say that the banning of Habeas Corpus was bad until we know something, until we have looked deeply at the whole spectrum of the problem, not just the brightest of reds at one end and the darkest of violets on the other but the blue, green, yellow, and orange in between. When it comes to important, essential, and enduring things this is what we must do. When it comes to things that cannot be proven with a series of mathematical formulas such as our beliefs, values, and principles, this is what we must do. We cannot be guided by the fanatically followed theory that has so epitomized our age: reductionism. And Martha Nussbaum, has indeed done this. She has taken complex, nuanced, and subtle things and stripped them down until all that is left is a propagandist dictum leading to a seemingly scenic road but a road that actually leads one off a cliff without ever knowing it because one has not looked to the side and noticed the warning signs.

Unbelievably she uses Aristotle and Plato as a cheap move to strengthen her argument. It is shameful and inappropriate name dropping. Even for somebody who has a smattering of knowledge of what they were writing about you know that there is something incredibly disingenuous about using their sacred names to support cosmopolitism. She is not intellectually dishonest. She never makes the ludicrous claim that they supported cosmopolitanism, but the very fact that she uses their names an article that allows for no time to do them justice makes one want to puke, especially since Aristotle believed that man is nothing without the state, that the state is the higher thing, and that man in a political community is like what the arm is to the body: subordinate and meant to be controlled. Plato’s idealized city, in the Republic, is one where certain citizens are zealously interested in the affairs of their own place. In fact he even warns about busy bodies going out and interfering with the matter s of a different polis.

She says that disasters around the world have never aroused our attention but she is wrong. This is true and I take it as an unfortunate essential of being human that I am no god. I am not all powerful. I am not omniscient. But most saddening I am not always aware of the suffering of my fellow man, or most disconcerting I might know and choose to do nothing and let the suffering go on. But I will remind Martha Nussbaum that Americans, when they are aroused to do things, when they are reminded of their basic ideals by their leaders and by their neighbors then we act with an honorable indefatigable purpose. We do this because we are not like other nations. Every other nation on this planet has risen out of the mists of the past. Only a Chinese man can be Chinese. Only a French man can be French. Only a German can be German. Only a Persian can be Iranian. Only a Mesopotamian can be an Iraqi. But all of these people can be Americans, as long as they accept and take on as a burden our ideals, our principles, and our beliefs. And this surprises me that such an intellectually well endowed lady as Martha Nussbaum has forgotten those basic kindergarten American History lessons? We learned that the main tenets of our political faith are these; all humans need certain things like equality, freedom, and justice. When, in our history we were called forth to do great and noble things, the impetus was not cosmopolitanism but rather patriotism. Lincoln looked back to our founding ideals to urge the nation forward. The same goes for every other President when facing an inward crisis, but it also goes for events abroad. Let us not forget what happened in 1801, that is eerily similar to what happened two centuries after. On the coast of North Africa, Islamic fundamentalists made a living off of piracy. They would loot European ships and carry off the treasure as loot and the men as slaves. This had been going on for centuries and European nations got around it by simply paying bribes, which was cheaper than biting the bullet and extirpating the pirates and America could have done the same but alas we did not have a man at the helm who only thought about nickels and dimes but we had a man who had values and principles. Those noble principles that we espouse mean nothing, if they are not actualized and this is what Jefferson set out to do with the North African perpetuators of death. He sent the marines to deal with the Barberry pirates because we need to be always acting as the world’s adventurous guide who is always willing to go down into the cave and help our fellow man up, even if it is not in our self-interest. This sentiment was behind our action in Cuba at the turn of the century, WWI, WWII, Korea, Afghanistan (in sending weapons), the Gulf, and the most recent war. Now this sentiment might have been distorted like all beliefs can be like Mexico in the 19th century, Guam, Philippines, Hawaii, Cuba, Vietnam, and some would say to an extent our most recent expedition. This feeling of looking outwards to make sure that no one is violating the most basic but highest human laws has made us not only invade but to give. Our nation privately gives more than any other nation in the world and this has been the case since we have become prosperous. But the fact that Americans romantically dare even to this day to spread liberty and democracy is an amazing thing. We have treaded like men must do, and sometimes we have treaded off our path, but does that mean we stop treading at all? I believe we must always tread carefully but we must tread.

But we do not always have our eye set out on the outside. No I prefer to get my house in order before I go out like a gad fly, cleaning, organizing, and decorating somebody else’s. Nussbaum makes being a human out to be simply making sure everyone has got enough food. Well there is more than that. And for those higher things and more potentially dangerous decisions like who gets what and how much, a political community decides. This is a part of our belief system as well, the belief that all have a right to make decisions with the people they live with. Because the Iranians share the characteristics that allow one to form a peaceful political community such as a common spiritual belief, the same world outlook, and certain customs, then they should govern their own affairs. The same goes for every other nation. When one nation does degenerate and descend into barbarisms that violate the few things all humans agree upon then the world awakes and acts and is assuredly awaken by no other than the America. But unless we are to have Empire, where one group of people, who believe they know it all, tells the rest what to do on issues ranging from the most basic but highest to the most frivolous and lowest then Martha Nussbaum should not be paid attention. She will claim that this is not what she is arguing for but it is what her argument leads to. If we are to be concerned with all others’ affairs, then we will, if we are human, to act on what we believe in, and if we are to do this then we have an Empire on our hands.  If we choose our own creed of republicanism and a zealous pursuit of freedom, equality, and justice abroad and a cautious but steady pursuit of the most accepted parts of those principles abroad then we will have something that not even the most romantic, idealistic, and Quixotic of men could have imagined, while still being ironically practical and obvious.

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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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