Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Newbeginings -- Godsent!

Despite my best guesses, which for the past year have indicated I will NEVER EVER blog again, God showed me today that he had a different plan for me. So he sent me a big fat sign. Well maybe it wasn't a very obvious one, but it was quite evident it was a sign from him. Here's how I figured it out:

It all started when in I've written what I saw as one of the most honest declarations of unconditioned appreciation and love for a good friend of mine. Her reply, besides being unexpectedly slow, consisted in a flaky, if not demoralizing, "awww" (< that is but a summary of the actual reply which consisted of a couple of sentences.) The rest of this story matters less. What matters here is that since graduation I've been having a quarter-life crisis, which was cunningly avoiding my scrutiny. It was the (un)fortunate declaration that put the cunning bitch in the spotlight for me to see it in its splendor. I did not know what to do with my life, neither how to go about figuring it out.

As a result, I chose -more or less subconsciously- to do nothing for a while and see what falls from the sky. Needless to say that not much happened, and I was far from proactive in provoking any falling myself. So after doing much of nothing, reading a bunch-o-stuff, and stalking friends on the infamous facebook, the shit really hit fan. A bunch of friends got jobs, a bunch of others started grad school, and a few others figured out what they were doing with themselves. All of a sudden, not only that I was the one of the few still staying at my parents', I was also the only one that was all talk and no work. So I started feeling that butterflies in my stomach. Mybe you know that feeling before an exam, or when you feel your parents will yell at you for something stupid you KNOW you did but they don't. Well... feeling like that seemed quite magical, if not miraculous, to me.

When I am happy, first thing I do is check my email, to see if i can get EVEN HAPPIER. More often then not, I end up more miserable at the realization that I cant augment my initial happiness with an empty inbox.. but hey! the day this will happen will be quite something. I actually check my email EVERY TIME I feel different, just because it's there for me to do it. Like a happy-pill, to boost good-moods and bust the bad ones. Well them butterflies made me check my email half an hour ago only to find another empty inbox and that's when the divine revelation kicked in. The forces of nature or any other divinity there is out there allowed my penny to drop: all I needed was a mean to express myself and to stay true and accountable to myself about my current efforts to figure out my life. Since as of lately I find other people to be rather difficult to communicate with, I figured I am in one of those situations when nothing should be a secret anymore, and I should share as much as possible with as many as are ready to read.

SO! to conclude this almost boring (yet somewhat witty, if not straight out amusing) last post, I will tell everyone that I am starting a new blog. It will contain many (if not all) of the aspects of searching for a job here in Bucharest as a foreign college grad, and will be sprinkled with very VERY enticing articles and pragmatic, philosophical and amuzing entries.

Enjoy it and bookmark it!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bloomberg.com: Romanian Leu, World's Top Performer, May Rise in 2007

Not that having a strong currency doesn't have its downside. What's rather exciting is that now we have something to talk about other then rampant deficit, corruption, and inflation when we discuss the Romanian economy.

Bloomberg.com: News

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Current Administration

Why do Americans call their leadership “The Administration?” or better yet “the current Administration”?

I am not a foolish ignorant with respect to what I am about to say. I know each language, corroborated with its cultural particularities has its own… how should I put this… linguistic means of deflecting responsibility, but America is better than the rest of the world in pretty much anything (this is not sarcastic. Well, maybe it is a little. But this is not to say the US doesn’t rock my sox. They have 24 and House for crying out loud!)

In terms of deflecting responsibility, for some reason, Americans feel there is little connection between themselves and their government. Perhaps this is just an appearance spurred by my daily interactions, especially when it comes to dissent from the government’s position. In other words, when they don’t like what “the country” does, but they wish to talk (not to say bitch, because often time they are talking constructive criticism) about it, it is not uncommon that the US citizens redirect the responsibility for the “wrong” not on the country, not on the people in the country, nor on the 50-something percent that elected the people running the country, but on a very narrow group of people that are in charge, the administration.

The average (educated) American has a very low sense of partaking to the Administration’s decisions and policy, as I have noticed. The American democracy is interesting like this: people feel represented. Well… kinda’… they are represented once every 2 years, and a little more than that once every 4 years, when the elections come. Everyone performs the sacred civic duty but then, for some reason that I cannot explain, nor understand there is a separation occurring between the electorate and their representatives.

After the elections (especially if they voted against the winners) people feel they have no responsibility for whatever the country is doing. It is disconcerting, to say the least, to see scholars, public figures, or regular people take the stance of “this administration is doing all the wrong things” (with an implied “haha! I told you so! They are not representing America! I am an individual and I dissent, so in no way should you, associate me with them!”). My twisted version of a democracy implies accepting the decision of the majority, through vote, as your own… Because when the Administration changes, it will represent the 300 000 Americans not just the 51% of the voting population that voted for them. Going about it in a better or a worse way, the “this” Administration will do what is best for the Americans (or for the US there is a bit of ambiguousness as to which exactly takes precedence) to the best of their knowledge, RIGHT? Point being: dissociating yourself from the administration is wrong, weak, a cope-out, etc at least until you actively do something to change it. However, I hardly see people DO SOMETHING about their government’s decisions. Of course it is more comfortable to choose passive verbal separation than active fixing “the situation is bad… this administration is doing all the wrong things! That’s it! I’m not gonna put up with this! Imma do something about it. I’ll stop bitchin and start a revolution!” – This is just not that common. What I really want to know is WHY this is that case.

Is it the passivity of the people? Is it because the US has a democracy at its historical peak that just seems odd because nothing similar has been encountered before? Can it be lethargy from the part of the critics? Perhaps people’s ignorance of their “power” in a democracy? Fear of the rule of law? (Uh-oh! This is a good one! Individuals give up democracy principles for the obedience to the rule of law, which is quite puzzling since democracy is based on the rule of law. How much are people ready give up until “constitutional liberal democracy” loses the “democracy” part.)

Who knows?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ban American Marriage

We have seen too much of this "American stuff!" if we keep allowing them to marry, the world as we know it will come to an end.

Time to act now!

Thank god New Zealand is here to show us the path of the righteous.

This is just too good!

20-year old American solves complex dilemma of Ecuadorian family

Asked “Are Ecuadorians less mature then Americans?” someone reopened (in my mind) the can of worms I have tried to duck-tape closed for several years (and therefore refrained from ever bringing it up in conversation with “mi amigos estadounidenses”): egocentric ignorance resulted from a sheltered life. She is a senior in college and studied a semester in Ecuador. The host family she had stayed with was from a poor suburban/rural area. When her host-family was debating weather their older daughter aged 19 should go to university they asked for her “American” take on this serious family debate. The answer was prompt: “you got some money? Go to university and you will make more in the long run. You don’t have the money? Get a job!” As the family showed their appreciation for this blunt yet, surprisingly simple, yet never-thought-of answer to their question, the brilliant exchange student is praising herself for her maturity in solving an entire Ecuadorian family’s most difficult dilemma. The implicit conclusion was (what else!) that Ecuadorians are much less mature than Americans. Of course, matters of emotional maturity are invisible to the average emotionally immature American.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention(4): Conclusion

Currently, in military interventions across the world such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of the positive image of humanitarianism has heightened the potential to damage, if not completely obliterate the genuinely humanitarian organizations[1]. Their raison d'ĂȘtre, easing suffering where it is needed, is possible via the reputation of impartiality for the cause and dedication to the effects of the conflict. While not always welcomed, NGOs such as MSF have been tolerated, if not by governments directly, at least by the locals they helped[2]. In 2002, in Afghanistan, independent aid workers have been targeted repeatedly for their perceived allegiance to the invading force.

Military intervention presented as humanitarian in nature, co-optation of NGO by the military, in order to help the post invasion reconstruction efforts, as well as the military use of civilian/humanitarian actions in order to rally local support have made it difficult to determine if the organizations on the ground were outsiders to the conflict or “the vanguard of expeditionary troops” of newly-defined-just wars[3]. “Whatever their legitimacy, armed interventions intended to assist and protect civilian populations put aid workers at risk from the moment they are deployed under the humanitarian banner”[4]. It is essential that neither the Security Council nor the international intervention force leader should include humanitarian actors in their camp. In case the western state or whatever international interveners claim a humanitarian role, or demand help from the aid organizations, the impartiality of such organizations is compromised, and they become not only unable to provide help where it is needed, but also become vulnerable targets through the nature of their work.

In order to be efficient and impartial, a “humanitarian intervention” should be made in a responsible way. The responsibility should emerge somewhat similarly to the legal ability to prosecute crimes against humanity under universal jurisdiction in the sense that, if states feel they have the ability to act upon the crisis and have the vast majority of the states endorsing the action, they should do it. With the UN taking a more impartial, yet consistent role, and having humanitarian aid and military intervention having as little ideological and practical overlap as possible, humanitarian intervention will take a new shape. This approach however, requires a rather dramatic change in the way humanitarian intervention is regarded, at least in the Western world.

[1] Woollacott, Martin. Humanitarians Must Avoid Becoming Tools of Power

[2] Weissman, Fabrice. Military Humanitarianism: A Deadly Confusion.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention(3): Guidelines for Intervention

Now that we have established when and where humanitarian intervention is necessary, it is important to outline the key guidelines such an intervention should follow, in order to remain consistent with its goals of alleviating greatest suffering. Post September 11 the term “humanitarian intervention” was exploited for rallying local and international support for military interventions. Since such intervention was deemed humanitarian in nature, without having a broad agreement among states that this was the case, the idea of military action for the protection of human rights has been seriously compromised. If it is to retain any legitimacy, humanitarian intervention needs to distance itself from what it is now. To facilitate this process, the UN needs to distance itself from taking the lead in humanitarian intervention and as the intervention progresses the military and civil aspects need to be kept separate, for the sake of the population on behalf the intervention is conducted. First, UN should refrain from conducting such operations itself and leave states, local organizations or groups of states handle the military intervention. While the states willingness not to abuse the right to intervene may be doubtful under the current conditions, under the normative framework presented above, states will not intervene in the absence of a broad international consensus approving their action. The key in regaining legitimacy for military action as a mean to reduce suffering is to depoliticize the humanitarian aspect by distancing it from the military one. The UN and the humanitarian NGO should not be compromised from their work to relief suffering even when a war takes place. It is intuitive that if the UN is regarded as one of the partakers in the war (as it is the case with the peacemaking missions) they will cease to be regarded as the impartial mediator. Both the UN and the NGOs need to maintain their equidistance and dedication to humanitarianism more than anything else.

Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention(2): Asking the wrong question

It is the case that the effects of military intervention hurt the very object that is trying to defend: human life. When humanitarian intervention results in a war it causes violence, destruction, human suffering, and lost resources by the society as a whole, even in the situations of jus ad bellum[1]. With respect to the humanitarian aspect, when grave violations of human rights occur, the states have developed the routine[2] to condemn the violations of human rights. From an ethical standpoint the universality of human rights has as much weight as the issue of human suffering[3]. However, from a purely practical perspective, the purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to create the necessary conditions for human well-being. In this case it is not the rights themselves that need to be protected but they are merely a tool for protecting humanity and humans against suffering[4].

The current international system of states functions in such a way that resources are not only unequally distributed among states, but they are also scarce. Concomitantly, a whole range of variables play into the reasons why not all humans can enjoy the full range of human rights as outlined by the 1948 Declaration of Human Righits. However, the complexity of reality should not prevent the human society from striving to better itself. In order to ameliorate the situation, the world needs “to fix” what works “the worst”. Since it is humans and humanity that we are attempting to protect, it so happens that “the worst” means human suffering at its highest: people dying. Therefore, what international actors need to ask themselves is how to make the worst situations better and when is it worth to use force for achieving the goals of improving such a situation.

The essence of humanitarianism is asking “who needs help in this conflict?” and not “who is right in this conflict?”[5] In a similar fashion, asking the proper question the debate on where to intervene also becomes clearer. Being consistent with the purpose of the Human Rights, “who needs help?” is more appropriate than asking “who has more human rights abused”, or “who is right in a conflict”[6]. It is not uncommon that the answers for these questions are hardly the same. The migration away from this basic concept of “who needs help?” has heightened the importance of politically important situations, argued on humanitarian (and human rights grounds) at the cost of the situations in which the suffering is the greatest. Crude mortality rates should be one of the most relevant indicators of human suffering[7]. States should support sustainable amelioration of the cases of such extreme suffering situations. For that purpose, they should become the priority, and while it can be the case that they are correlated to human rights abuses, the cases of extreme human suffering should not be mistaken cases of extreme human rights abuses.

However human suffering has different levels of intensity and the world has not the obligation to act every time. Under the moral framework described so far, however, the priority should be to alleviate the absolute worst of the situations. If it is a mass famine, a civil war, or a disease, the world has the obligation to act in order to stop it. It is essential to uproot the current humanitarian idea that sees its definition bent to unnatural curvatures in order to fit political and economic interests, and re-root it back as a dedication to address the highest degree of human suffering at each point in time. It is often the case that such dedication is deadlocked in the current system of managing humanitarian intervention. While states recognize humanitarian crises when they occur, breaking the deadlock, but that the deadlock is broken when normative ethical values, are able to rally enough political support in order to have the vast majority of the states committed to solve it. Once this political will exists, crisis management possibilities grow exponentially. When both consensus and commitment are present, the political pressures, diplomacy and the carrots become much more effective. Similarly sticks become thicker and heavier. It is only when such politically wide will to solve the most urgent problem for the victims when a military action, labeled “humanitarian intervention” should exist. Such intervention is needed solely where its purpose remains to significantly improve the situation of the suffering. It is essential to note that neither full respect for human rights nor democracy or capitalism is essential for this purpose.

[1] Judith Gail Gardam, Proportionality and Force in International Law

[2] Jack Donnelly, Cultural Relativism and Universal Human Rights

[3] Ibid

[4] M Ignatieff, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry

Catherine Dumait-Harper, The Responsibility to protect

[5] Fabrice Weissman. Military Humanitarianism: A Deadly Confusion

[6] Martin Woollacott: Humanitarians must avoid becoming tools of power

[7] Ibid

Rethinking Humanitarian Intervention(1): Intro

The following 3-4 posts are an altered draft of my thoughts on humanitarian intervention. I should say that parts of this are results of research and therefore not my personal ideas, however, as a whole this is how the cookie should crumble, if I were god.

Developing a set of criteria for guiding decisions about humanitarian intervention is difficult without seeing everything in a broad context. Particularly, in the light of the post September 11 developments with respect to this matter, humanitarian intervention needs to be re-examined fundamentally before asking questions of where, when and why is it required. I propose escaping the limitations of the recent debate on the topic which involves definitions that are more or less precise, and their abundant interpretations. In essence the question should be “When, where and how is inter-state violence appropriate in order to alleviate human suffering?

In order to address this, I will begin by explaining how the above question is more relevant that simply asking about humanitarian intervention. Then I will explain when and how alleviation of suffering is humanitarian, and under what circumstances it would require military action. In case such action takes place, I will outline the major guidelines it should follow, of which, the key is to prevent the overlap between the military and humanitarianism. The conclusion will delineate how this leads in one direction: completely rethinking, if not removing, humanitarian intervention as we currently know it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Do Americans know "Underwear Goes Inside the Pants"

I am really curious to know how many Americans think this guy singing (well... speaking) is wrong or psychotic. I mean... the things he is saying are obvious... common sense, right?

Perhaps I am mistaking.

AK-47's coming out

My excitement reaches highest level in months as news about Iraq hits the media. Do not disregard the insignificance of this piece of news. The trial can be the first of many to reveal a practice that has been rooted in the routine of the American troops in Iraq. (It is unclear if soldiers of other states practice this, too.)

While the practical thing to do for the ones in charge of the soldiers on the ground is not to discourage the practice of drop weapons (in order to mentain control of the troops) it is immoral and dangerous for the Pentagon to continue ignoring it. One can only hope that the US judicial system will prove itself and do the right thing. It remains to be seen if it will go as far as it has to in order to stop the practice and hold the ones that have partaken accountable.

You can find the article in

NY Times

BBC News

Friday, October 06, 2006

2-D, 3-D and 4-D or Why is it that the US and Europe don’t click-clack?

The best explanation I have to why the U.S. and Europe and their proxies (people from and representatives of) often don’t agree is via a rather abstract, yet enlightening, analogy. Everyone knows we live our lives in a 3-dimensional space (system). We have length width and height for everything around us. We understand these dimensions and use this knowledge to correctly appreciate distances and put the environment around us to the best use. Now imagine a 2 dimensional world… a world your daughter has drawn on a piece of paper. This world has only 2 dimensions, and the people inside it will only be able to think and act in those 2 dimensions. Now think about what would happen when you, a 3dimensional person, would try interacting with the 2d world. If you put your hand on the piece of paper, the little people in the paper world would see the part of your hand coming in contact with their world, ie the parts of your hand coming in contact with the paper. Any movement of your hand will alter the shape and size they associate with you and their perception of you will change inexplicably. They cannot perceive a third dimension, so they cannot perceive you outside the surface of the hand that touches the paper. The same way we, humans, have great difficulty trying to imagine what would a 4th dimension mean for our world. It is just something so enormously complex that we can’t even realize the extent to which our lack of knowledge goes.

This is how I see Americans and myself, here. Two entities that have 2 dimensions in common, but they can’t perceive each other’s third dimension. It is not the case that Americans just have other values than Europeans and South Americans. Their entire system of references and thinking is different, to such an extent that it makes it very difficult to explore, and understand.

Raping Bosnians Like an American

I am wondering if it is only me going nuts and becoming excessively sensitive, or these things I am seeing, actually happen and not so many acknowledge them. Unfortunately for me I have been studying (or learning about) international relations in more or less formal settings pretty much since I was 8-9. I say unfortunately because it messes up your mind and soul in a way chemistry or anthropology, or economics do not. I am not going to blame Americans for being ignorant, because anyone that did a fair amount of globetrotting knows that other countries are equally or even less knowledgeable about topics of international relations (I am talking about the educated top here, not the majority of the population.) But Americans have something very particular about the way they carry around their ignorance. It is something more than the stereotypical pride and lack of understanding of their limitations. It is an inability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. I am sure there are good socio-economic-historical-anthro-geo-political reasons for that… but Americans are lacking the ability to not compare everything they see or hear with something they are disgustingly familiar with.

It can be a baked dish of Gruyere-shrimp orecchiette that is discharged as “just a casserole.” And it can be ranting about the rape as a war-crime in Rwanda and Bosnia by citing individual cases of rape in the US. How exactly can someone that has no understanding of culture different then theirs expect to be taken seriously when they think they figured out what the problem in Bosnia was? I am surprised that they manage to understand a difference DOES exist, but I am not far from hitting my head against a wall when I hear the tone, and the implications pointing in one direction:

“oh we understand how this is different: it is archaic! The problem in Bosnia is not that there was a war, wars happen, it’s normal! No-no! We know what the problem is: the problem is that people don’t speak up. They get raped and then they do not start running around yelling <<>> Because this is what WE DO HERE, and it is the fair, responsible and logical thing to do. We change the world with our activism.”

The problem is that when you are on the top of the mountain you can’t see the largest part of the mountain. Willingly or not the vast majority of the Americans have become inapt to understand cultural relativism from within this country. There is just too much information missing. Blame it on the news, the patriot act, Hollywood, the Midwest or whatever, but it exists. There is a certain US-centric train of thought that everyone employs despite their values and opinions. This is not to say that you can’t see this in other countries, but in US distinguishes itself by being the most blinding light that few manage to take out of their eyes. It impossible for them to perceive the complexities of another system… (see my 2-3-4 D explanations)


Ahhh... I am back for the 4 or 5 people that check me out every now and then.

Well... not really for them but more for myself. There is just too much good stuff happening for me not to blog it. I am waiting for the improbable butterfly effect that will make the world perfect from my little flaps.