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Freewrite #4 Universal Universalism?

In freewrite on February 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm

While reading Wallerstein’s article, I found myself nodding and underlining many points he talks about and I cannot agree with more.

He says in the beginning of the book, “We tend to be in no doubt that we ought to fight evil, and we are often in not much doubt as to who and what incarnates evil” (xiii). What is the notion of “evil” composed of? How defines it? Media? What else?

Behind media, there might be political forces. Behind political forces, there are decision makers. So in the end, it’s human (some of us) who defines what evils are, and influences the rest of us to act against evil.

In other words, some of us make the rest believe in what is good and evil. In some instances, the process of making people believe can involve military forces.

Universalism is one way of making us believe what shall be done to the rest of world by imposing certain values on people and claiming their universality.

Wallerstain writes, “The usual argument is that the expansion has spread something variously called civilization, economic growth and development, and/or progress, All of these words have been interpreted as expressions of universal values, encrusted in what is often called natural law. Therefore, it has been asserted that this expansion was not merely beneficial to humankind but also historically inevitable” (I).

What makes many of us fundamentally believe that those are self-evident ideas? Also, what it takes to challenge this self-evident notion, especially when the realization of the problems of that universalism is rare, not at all universal? What can we do to help challenge more people about this thinking?

On one hand, I stand with Wallerstein on how severe the problems are. On the other hand, I am wondering his solution is, if there is any?

It doesn’t occur to me while reading his articles that he has suggested a practical solution. Saying “It is not an easy game” (49) is not a solution. To me, it is more like avoiding the problems.

The causation of the existing universalism must be somewhere, and there shall be a way to overcome it.

Will losing its global power help the Western world realize their mistakes? Will gaining global power change what have been done? Or it will be the same old story, but with different characters, like China will be acting like the current Western world, exploiting the Western (current non-Western world) in the next couple years? Is it just a game of changing names?

Along this thread of thought, I found myself stuck in the dead end…I don’t know what could potentially be the solution. Hence, I decided to look at the problem from another angle.

Why didn’t China or the non-Western world become the global power? Why the Westerns?I tried to think the difference culturally, and maybe from there, I can get something out of it.

From a cultural perspective, I think that China, and many other non-Western world like Africa, share a notion of collectivism, which is fundamentally different from Europeans’ individualism.

In Africa, the notion of ubuntu means that individuals contribute to the collective knowledge/power of the community, and thus the individuals will all benefit. The indigenous people believe that individuals will bring their own uniqueness to the group; individuals are born with purposes to help the community become a better one.

In China, current education teaches collectivism starting from elementary school. I was taught that each student should strive for excellence, because our individual excellence will bring glory to the class, and only when the class is excellent, we can all be even better. The mistake of an individual student reflect poorly on the whole class. The punishment to one student means the punishment to the other 50 students.

The communal benefit goes before personal interests; yet, they are self-interested as well.

The individualism Western world has been proud of goes largely at the self-interested level, and it seems to me that we talk too little about the benefit of the community. We talk about what will do good to our own business; we talk about how much power our country will gain by doing this and that; we concern about ourselves.

Maybe if we consider ourselves as part of a group, and start to think about what our actions will result to the others in the group, something may be different. If we think about the community when we think about our own business; if we think about other countries when we think about our own, something maybe different.

The fundamental capitalism belief doesn’t need to change: we are still self-interest driven human beings. The fundamental liberalism thought doesn’t have to change: free market will still be there.

The only difference is that we are all going to do better because our community is better.

Maybe?

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Freewrite #2

In freewrite on January 26, 2010 at 8:40 pm

1. My rhetoric research interest is war rhetoric, as well as rhetoric of resistance, so I am interesting in both the content and in various genres of resistance. I’d like to develop my critical reading and response skills, and look into how visuals play a role in resistance. As a design/photo and writing dual major, I want to study more about both verbal and visual discourse and how they interact/counteract each other.

2. I would rank Pratt’s article 2.5 out of 5. I think it is fairly easy to access, and it deserves a second or third read before I can grasp what she implies in her article and recognize her rhetorical strategies. I can understand what her argument is from by reading it thoroughly for the first time, and it did take me more time to digest the contextualization of her argument in order to answer the questions for group discussion.

I have a question, or rather an inquire, about Pratt’s idea of “safe house.” I have trouble seeing “safe house” exist in political world, where a lot of resistance takes place, and I’m wondering if the idea is just utopian? I can see it exist in academic world, but I haven’t heard about any instance of “safe house” exist in the history of war/political world. Is it just a literacy term then?

3. I’d be up for anything, to be honest. I really enjoy Pratt’s article, and think it will be interesting to read more. I’d like also to discuss the texts and do some close reading in our very own contact zone/safe house. Yet, some course of action sounds great too!

Morality

In freewrite on January 23, 2010 at 2:38 am

I just read a post by Mattias Mackler on Right and Wrong. He said:

“In the end, morality itself is a man-made invention.”

It reminded me of a conversation I had with Angela, my roomie at home when our power was out. It was about 7 pm, there was no light and electricity in my apartment; the only light source we had was a cookie-flavored candle. The reality that we had no light after sun set dated me back to the ancient world, and I started to imagining what it would be like to live in the past when it’s dark after sun set. Human beings communicate, back then, among families and friends. They share emotions after dark, because there is nothing else to be done. They watch the night sky.

They probably had no idea what morality was back then. They lived life in one way, as others had their ways of living.

When the word “morality” came into being, there came “mercy” “class” “cruelty” too, I am wondering.

Freewrite: Contact Zone

In freewrite on January 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

What is a “contact zone” or how to define an “asymmetrical power”?

As Mary Louise Pratt puts,  contact zones are

“social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical power…”

Does my living room, which my two roomies and I share, counts as a social space? Does reading a religion book counts as where cultures meet, clash? Does having a discussion about God in contexts of highly asymmetrical power?

If the answers to those questions are positive. Then, I must be in a contact zone while I was reading Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom alone in my living room earlier. I must also be in a contact zone where a male student shouted “God creates the universe” in my philosophy class while we were having a discussion on the creation of the big bang. I must as well be in a contact zone everyday of my life as my beliefs, faiths meet, clash and grapple with those of others.

It is hard to define those terms, like contact zone or power, I think. I can take them either conceptually or otherwise literally. Man-made words must make sense to the mankind, and change over time, just as the modern in the 60s isn’t the same as today.

Over the course of past two days filled with going to new classrooms and meeting new professors, classmates, the expectation of what I could get out of the class has shifted. Originally, I was just interested in “resistance” and in knowing what the Americas are resisting to. As for now, I think I am more interested in knowing “how” are they resisting, and in understanding the word “identity.”

The rabbi in Albom’s book once said that when a baby comes to the world, his hands are clenched. Because a baby, not knowing any better, want to grab everything. Yet, an old person dies with his hands open, as he has learned the lesson that we can take nothing with us.

Neither can we take identities with us.

During the short period of life, how identity has shaped our lives and those of others? In colonization, how identity has been manipulated, controlled and led to resistance? What are my identities, and what am I resisting to? How am I preserved? Those are some inquiries that emerged in the beginning of the new semester.

In a diverse contact zone like our class, I am hoping to learn more about humanity, some fundamental aspects that define/separate the human race and many more that are unexpected.

Life is a revolving sequence, or at least I’d like to think so.