Category Archives: International

The “global citizen”

Here at Elon, one of the main goals of the administration is to make students “global citizens.” I’m not really positive what they mean by that, but if they want students to be concerned about the world around them, both on a public and personal level, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. The current unrest in Egypt has had an impact here, an ocean and most of a continent away from the African nation (which is being discussed on the media as more of a Middle-Eastern state).

We had six students at the American University in Cairo when the fighting broke out. Luckily, they were away from the city for a great deal of it, and when they returned, five were able to get on one of the few flights leaving, making it safely to Istanbul, Turkey.  The sixth remained in Egypt with family. But for a while there, it was scary! To think that members of the Elon community, which some would call a family, were in the midst of a political fallout getting more and more dire with each passing day is truly a fearful thought.

Elon students would do well to remember that when we study abroad, we’re not just transplanting our life here to a life there. We are becoming active members of the new environment we live in. Their troubles are our troubles and sometimes, that means actual danger or at least, the risk of danger.

We should also recall that we have faculty members and students here who are from Egypt and have family there. Being a global citizen is about more than just knowing what CNN is showing on television; its about having empathy and genuine concern not just for our own personal interests, but for those of the people who surround us each day.

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This week in The Pendulum…

For the first issue of the summer, the opinions section will have a nice little balance of that warm, fuzzy optimism that you’ve grown accustomed to reading in other publications, and the typical grizzled, commentary that tends to dominate the editorial pages. If you’re on campus (all three of you) then pick up your copy on Wednesday, but if not, take a look on the Internet. I heard it’s the hip, new thing.

As for a few sneak peeks at this week’s content…

  • Learn about the humility and honor in charity, no matter how small the contribution may seem.
  • Can Obama’s new “Can’t we all get along?” policy for the Middle East accomplish anything?
  • Reality TV doesn’t just hurt the pride of super models and the crotches of the contestants on “Wipeout.”
  • The revolution in Iran will be televised, and the West can do nothing but watch.
  • Hard times don’t mean that deplorable behavior is inevitable, it means that ideologues will have an excuse for their depravity.
And find out just what this cat and his bumper car have to do with Obama's economic policies...

And find out just what this cat and his bumper car have to do with Obama's economic policies...

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Filed under Business, Culture wars, Elon, Government, Hollywood, International, Iran, Media, Military, Morgan, Obama, Pendulum, Religion

Working for the Clampdown

Democracies are such a problem. Sure, they provide a solid basis for capitalist enterprise, grant people greater control of the government and give a nation greater credibility on the world stage. But oh, when failure and discontent festers in the minds of the voters, what are the poor strongmen in the palaces of power to do? They can’t just let themselves be voted out by popular will, nor can they win an election by the slightest of margins. They must keep hold of their scepters and make it seem as though they have a mandate, to keep those snippity upstarts from mustering the gall to question them.

For Iran’s ruling parties, specifically Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President (-cough-) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the problems democracy creates for despots have come to a boiling point. The country is embroiled in a multitude of protests after the presidential election, in which the government (Iran has no independent agency that verifies election results) ruled that Ahmadinejad had taken the election with 66 percent of the vote, despite a lengthy series of logical and statistical reasons why such a result is highly debatable (which are detailed in this excellent article).

Ahmadinejad carefully decides whether or not he recieved 66 or 65 percent of the popular vote.

Ahmadinejad carefully decides whether or not he received 66 or 65 percent of the popular vote.

I’ve made snide remarks about Twitter in the past, what with its stupid character limit and apparent lack of usefulness in comparison to other web applications, but the uprising against the Iranian government has been by and large covered via people going onto Twitter and other similar Internet resources and informing the world about just what’s going on. Many of the major news outlets have devoted large amounts of their coverage to these reports, especially as they’re faced with an increasingly tyrannical Iranian government trying to take control of everything being covered in their country (the Associated Press’ problems with allowing non-governmental Iranian news sources access to materials are covered here).

Even though reports are now coming in that Internet speeds are drastically decreasing nationwide, either due to increased use or for more dubious reasons, the movement for reform in Iran, led by presidential candidate (and to some, President) Mir Hossein Moussavi, has done an incredible job utilizing the web, to the extent at which I don’t go to the BBC or CNN first for information about the protests and the backlash, I head to the blogs (with The Guardian’s liveblog being first and foremost) and to, amazingly, Twitter. It’s through online resources that I’ve gained much of my knowledge, and though it all must be viewed with a grain of salt (a ton of people are now going wild about a supposedly leaked document from the Iranian government proving the elections results were fraudulent, especially now that the man who supposedly leaked them has been killed in a suspicious car crash, but the document has yet to be completely verified).

It would be nice to think that these protests will lead to immediate change and a swift alteration of the guard in Iran, but the government is simply too powerful, with too many resources and too few morals to be taken down so easily. What this contested election does mark is the begining of the end of the current Iranian regime, and an indication that tanks and explosives aren’t needed for democracy to flourish in the Middle East. All there needs to be is a strong voice, a call for change and a government incompetent enough to view the pursuit of nuclear power as more important than the nation’s economy. And it doesn’t hurt for there to be media that isn’t forced to work with those clamping down on free speech to spread the good word out to millions at home and overseas.

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Filed under Culture wars, Government, International, Iran, Media, Morgan, Technology

You woeful idiots, join me!

Dr. Carlo Strenger is a pretty darn smart guy. A professor at the psychology department of Tel Aviv University, he frequently contributes to The Guardian (a paper that, if you have not noticed, I worship), mostly on the topic of religion and how it pertains to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I know, it’s a topic that it seems as though everyone in the world has already tossed their two cents into.

But there’s a certain calmness to Strenger’s writing that’s uniquely appealing, and a recent article of his, “Dawkins is wrong about believers” struck me as particularly appealing. In it, his atheist stance is made quite clear (a stance that can be the only logical result of enduring the Middle East’s religious warfare for so long), but he’s not afraid to quickly discredit the man who is considered by many as the king of the modern atheist movement.

A press photo of Richard Dawkins, the prophet...I mean...big cheese of atheism.

A press photo of Richard Dawkins, the prophet...I mean...big cheese of atheism.

That man, Richard Dawkins, though also an intelligent fellow, is also a feverishly pretentious jerk whose eagerness to belittle accomplishes little good other than to cement the beliefs of those he intends to persuade through condemnation. If you agree with Strenger and me, that is.

It’s a pretty simple point that Strenger argues. Dawkins is voracious in his attacks on religion and religious beliefs, and he encourages atheists not to be calm observers of religion’s follies, content in their rationality, but instead to passionately convert them from one belief system to another in a way that is in no manner remotely similar to religious conversion.

This ultimately offends religious folks and makes them further disenchanted with atheists, and more likely to sink further into fundamentalism. It’s like if somebody in a Yankees hat came over, kicked me in the nuts, spat on my Brooks Robinson jersey and then demanded that I purchase some tickets to a Yankees game (for only $240 at that!)

Everybody’s going to be inclined to stick with their preexisting beliefs if berated with new ones that run directly counter to them. The better, and more productive path to take is one of reasonable persuasion, by putting efforts not on dismantling the Catholic church from the bottom up, but in changing their stance on AIDs prevention, for example.

But of course, reasoned, middle-ground ruminations on the possible benefits of a calm and measured relationship between atheists and the religious don’t sell speeches or books…

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Filed under Culture wars, International, Media, Morgan, Religion

Step 1 in being a successful politician

Never allow yourself to be even remotely close to a swastika, even if it’s made by children and looks to be incorporated in a backwards Chinese flag.

Step 2. Don't be Gordon Brown.

Step 2. Don't be Gordon Brown.

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Filed under China, Government, International, Morgan

One flu over the cuckoo’s nest

For years the media has gone from one health scare to another, with each summer bringing with it a new viral terror that will result in a pandemic. There was swine flu, the west Nile virus and avian flu just to name a few. But it looked like they were all false alarms, nothing really came out of any of them, each outbreak was quickly contained and resulted in only a handful of deaths at the most.

It's happened before...

It's happened before...

Now it seems the real deal has arrived. The swine flu that has emerged from Mexico has, over the course of a few days, gone from a bizarre outbreak south of our border to an international crisis, with infections now reported not just in the U.S. and Mexico, but New Zealand, Spain and Canada all have confirmed cases, while Israel is concerned that it may have some infections as well. The Center for Disease Control and the feds have taken this all very seriously, announcing a state of emergency, with the CDC sending out constant warnings that the strain found in the U.S. is mild in comparison to its southern counterpart, and that contingencies need to be drawn up for the cancellations of schools and measures similar to those already taken in Mexico City, which has been nearly shut down for fear of further infections.

Like the last global flu pandemic, which took place in 1918, this new swine flu comes at an incredibly inconvenient time. Just as the world is trying to regain its economic footing, and while third world countries are at their weakest, the effects of even a minor pandemic could be disastrous. Cities in the first world could shut down, with economic activity brought to a crawl as employees stay home, due either to fear or illness. Global trade, already at a perilously low rate, would be crippled as nations tighten their borders.

Export-reliant countries, many of which are in the third world, would suffer incredibly from this. Not only would their revenues be cut from the drop in trade, but if the flu reaches their territory, their production would grind to a halt. The resources of global and domestic health services are already stretched too far, a pandemic would leave untold numbers of people without the means to care for themselves or loved ones, leaving governments the morbid decision of who to try and save with limited resources.

The terrible thing about a global health crisis of this nature is the fact that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There’s no way to throw money at a flu, no military action can be taken and even the most deft of diplomats can’t reason with a petri dish of viruses. Vaccinations will be implemented in the countries that can afford them, and the media will run tons of tips and tricks to ward off infection. But in the long run, if this flu mutates further, it could very well leap across the globe despite our best intentions, and there’s only so much modern medicine can do against a virulent, far-flung infection.

This isn’t the media grasping for ratings with footage of trucks spraying brush to kill mosquitoes or stock footage of chickens puttering about in their coops. This is the real thing, and there’s little the average person can do save for stay mindful and hope for the best.

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Filed under Business, Health, International, Morgan