Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peace. Show all posts

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Personal Globalization

Warning: The following notes smell like middle-class, I-have-it-all, I-can-afford-to-be-cosmopolitan bragging... not my intention, but the smell persists...
The other day, a friend from Romania asked her network on Facebook to vote for a band in Germany. She's dating one of the members of the band, who's also from Turkey. Funny things is, me and this friend met in Turkey... the Westernized, touristic part of Turkey where people go to forget their frustrations and enjoy life by the sea, sipping on a margarita. That part of Turkey where's water in abundance and where everything is white and neat, just like the tourists... What stayed most with me however was the overwhelming feeling I had stepping into the Istanbul bazaar... Istanbul

Istanbul:
There was this person I knew from Istanbul whom I actually met in the subway in Budapest. I was talking to a friend of mine who happened to be from Greece, and just like in a comedy of errors, this guy thought we were talking about him. The friendship between a person from Athens and one from Istanbul, as unlikely as it sounds to some ears, was actually a natural... Friendship

Friendship:
So was the friendship between this person from Athens and a person f
rom Skopje. Hey, who would have every thought... There's nothing more powerful in destroying ethnic stereotypes and nationalisms than friendships. The three of us formed a trio, always together - also known as "The Triplets"... Triplets

Triplets:
Having triplets is no easy job, but for my friends it looks like a piece of cake. You'd think having three kids at once would transform the mom into a perpetual slave to diapers and baby food. Not this mom... She's just amazing, travelling almost every month to Strasbourg and Bruxelles. Hey, the European Union itself is asking for her! So she goes to beautiful Bruxelles, to mingle with all of those politicians and bureaucrats we only get to see on TV... When we visited Bruxelles, my mom told me: "Look, we are now running around in the backyard of Europe". Not quite a 'backyard', but still a huge, white (here comes whiteness again...) meeting place. A place where my former colleague, who so happens to be from Bulgaria, shops for fine chocolates and gateau aux abricots... Bulgaria

Bulgaria
: I owe a huge debt to a person from Bulgaria, who once had faith in me and told me "you can do it". So did a person from Hungary and two from Norway: they gave me courage and skillfully guided me through the jungle of social theory. Theory and morality. Just and unjust wars. Social responsibility and peace. Peace

Peace
: Peace is exactly what my friend from Kenya hopes and lives for. But when you work in a conflict area, thousands of miles away from your own family, peace seems like a rich-people privilege... My friend tells surreal stories about kidnappings, gun-attacks and violence. And I can only listen, a world away, hoping somehow nothing will touch my friend and the world will get a better place.... Cheers to bourgeois ignorance... I once had a roommate from that area. I remember she had never seen snow in her life before we were in Norway. But then again, neither did my friend from Athens - though it so happens that after we saw snow in Budapest, Athens all of a sudden started getting snow... Blame it on the climate change. Climate change

Climate change
: My friend from Costa Rica keeps a calendar of the days left til the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change. It's a one-person fight: every day, he reminds all his friends of the summit and of climate change. Every day, he asks us to think about what each and every one of us could do to change things. It's like a daily mantra we came to expect: tell us something about climate change. And it works for us, his friends... Friends

Friends
: My friends are spread all over the world. And if I'm to add my acquiantances to my network of friends, I get to cover quite a lot... From Asia to Europe, from Australia to North America, from Africa to ... well, what's left? Hm, no friends from the two Poles, though I can still brag with some friends who live above the Polar Circle...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back to religion. Or maybe Web 2.0?

del.icio.us is (yet) another tool for sharing sites you find interesting with your friends - well, actually with the world. Being bored, I searched what websites people saved for the word 'difference'. Amidst the many technical links, one caught my eye: The Religion of Peace: Islam Making a True Difference in the World. The link has been saved by some 200 people, which seems quite a number. I click full of hope. But hope vanishes instantly: the first thing that greets me from the Religion of Peace (no link to hate-speech here, so do your own googling) is the photo of an injured child. And the title: "Islam, the Religion of Peace (and a big stack of dead bodies)".

I am on a news site dedicated to showing how islam kills and how its casualties are piling up!
I am no fan of any religion (see religion post), but confronted with the website I instinctively feel the need to argue in support of the right to your own faith. The website seems a Hate Speech 101: sweeping generalizations (islam=terrorism), offending irony (latest offerings from the religion of peace), the appearance of relying on scientific data (stats), the pretense of objective newsreporting, the use of strong, emotional characterizations in relation to islam (rape, murder, dead).

The site is an example of constructing the difference - a negative difference based on the idea of the Other defined by/through its faith. I remind myself that tolerance includes letting hate-speech being expressed too (or at least that's the liberal democratic argument and the idea of the First Amendment). But as technological capabilities evolve, giving us new venues to voice ideas in a more persuasive way, I feel a bit frustrated that teaching critical skills takes a lot of time and sweat, weakening our capacity as a society to restore peace (and keep such hate-speech in a position of marginality).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Living with difference in Vancouver

The thing I love most in Vancouver is that you can actually see and live difference in so many ways. Men holding hands in Stanley Park, women kissing on Davie Street, Asian/Caucasian couples, black/Asian couples, black/white couples, and so on, and so forth. It seems as if difference has been dealt with, accepted and metamorphosed into a way of life. The few who may be upset with it are no longer supported by a mass of followers. And the more one is brought up with accepting difference, the less difference matters.

Or at least that's what I like to believe. The truth is I have no clue what people truly think when they see difference on the streets of Vancouver. And the skeptic in me remembers that maybe people, concerned with their daily lives, do not care too much about difference. But Johan Galtung once said that peace is not only the absence of violence, but the capacity of self-restoration. Difference starts becoming an issue when something is at stake, when a threat needs to be rationalized (and thus controlled) and when when the scapegoats have to be brought to light for the catharsis (and that false sense of security) of the group. I wonder if the difference on the streets of Vancouver has grown to the point of Galtung's peace: would it have the self-restoration capacity if threats and demons would arrive to haunt it?

And then again, the difference I'm depicting here is misleading. It's closer to diversity, but concepts are like labels that grow narrow. I've seen the difference between Robson Street and the area around Chinatown/ Gastown; the difference between the fancy promenade and the scary ghetto. It's still difference, isn't it? And this one does seem to reproduce itself over and over again, irrespective of the time and place...
 
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