Marketplace of Ideas

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nationalism, the Roots of all Evil

While the rise of the nation-state marked much of the history of the twentieth century, its roots originated in the early nineteenth century. From feudalism to absolute monarchy and eventually the nation-state, European populations gradually acquired more individual rights as they experienced unprecedented upward class mobility and technological progress. However, social evolution did not come without inflicting great pain on humanity. The Balkan Wars, World Wars and Cold War not only deprived Europe of its global supremacy, but also brought the entire continent to the brink of destruction. Hence, it is understandable that contemporaries of the war era blame the fall of Europe on nationalism. However, these negative connotations might be a byproduct of the framing mechanism historians used to recount the events that plagued the twentieth century. Today, global communities talk about self-determination, liberation movements and representative or power sharing governments, which—to a large extent—are ways to legitimize nationalism or ethnic identification.
Academic studies have exhausted the term nationalism, ranking it high among key determinants of the Wars. Consequently, modernists traumatized by the massive devastation resulted from those conflicts, perceived nationalism as the root of all that is evil, negative connotations that have stigmatized the term from both ethnic and historical perspectives. From the Balkan Wars to Arab nationalism, this essay will trace twentieth century nationalism through available empirical data and argue that it was a painful, yet necessary portal to greater political and social consciousness; hence, a positive contributor to postmodern democratization.
Scholars recognize ethnicity as a key driver of nationalist ideology; therefore it is nearly impossible to dissociate one from the other. Some common themes associated with them include: territory, common law and civic culture. In Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in the Early 20th Century, David DeNaples—history scholar of the Yale-New haven Teachers Institute-- framed nationalism as “the political manifestation of “a consciousness, on the part of the individual or groups, of membership in a nation or a desire to forward the strength, liberty, or prosperity of a nation,” (p. 3-5). Moreover, Boyd Schaffer (1972) presented a more elaborate definition in Faces of Nationalism, framing it as “a condition of mind…of a group of people living in a well defined geographic area, speaking a common language, possessing a literature in which the aspirations of the nation have been expressed, attached to common customs, venerating it’s own heroes, and, in some cases, a common religion,” (p. 3-23).
Closely related, ethnicity originated with the French as ethnie, meaning community or group. DeNaples noted, “myth and history provide the foundation for ethnie, and history has shown us that for the most part people feel closer to their ethnie than to a political body (the nation).” Such framework is important to understand the rather explicit relationship that ethnicity share with nationalism. DeNaples further noted five common elements to an ethnie: “identification, culture (language, religion values), idea of a homeland, sense of solidarity, and history,” (p. 3).
Furthermore, a simile used by Robert Wohl (2002) in An Age of Conflict: The Generation of 1914 explained that in European minds, “war became a dangerous sport, like big game hunting, that some particularly adventurous Europeans practiced outside or on the periphery of Europe,” (p. 14). This chilling depiction unveils the nonchalant attitude an ignorance inhibiting European populations prior to the War, a process that, in part, undoubtedly came from increasingly prevalent nationalist sentiments that preceded that era. Although the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne by Bosnian nationalist Gavrillo Princip provoked the immediate outbreak of the Great War, it initially started—as Derfler and Kollander recounted— “ as a local struggle rapidly escalating into widespread European conflict as each nation was convinced it was fighting in defense of vital and legitimate rights,” (p. 7). The prevailing historical data made it abundantly clear the assassination that ignited World War I was not the primary reason for the War. Rather, it was a smaller part of a larger nationalist movement as European societies transitioned from absolute monarchy to the establishment of liberalism and democracy.
Barbara Jelavich traced the first European national movement to the 1804 Serbian revolt against corrupt local authorities that revolted into a movement for national independence. In her book, History of the Balkans: Twentieth Century, Jelavich faulted the Ottoman government’s failure “to curb provincial disorder” for the attainment of a Serbian autonomous status. Greece, explained Jelavich, successfully established an independent Greek state in 1830, following a Christian revolution. Still, a third national movement followed: that of the Romanians in Wallachia and Moldavia; however, unification of the provinces did not occur until after 1856 with the Russian defeat in the Crimean War. Therefore, twentieth century European nationalism was not without precedence. Many successful nationalist uprisings, including Montenegro that later joined the first three, pioneered the movement.
Later, resettlements resulting from the Balkan Wars further destabilized a declining Ottoman Empire giving rise to many ethnic conflicts and nationalist uprisings. According to Richard C. Hall’s book, The Balkan Wars, 1912- 1913: Prelude to the First World War, the emerging peace treaties of London and Bucharest in 1913 reconfigured the borders of the Balkan peninsula and established many independent states, namely Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and, later, Albania (p. 2). Revolutionary activist Vasil Levski contextualized the movement saying, “We are a people and want to live in complete freedom in our hands, there were the Bulgarians live, in Bulgaria, Thrace and Macedonia,” recounted Hall (p. 3). Such statements are characteristics of the long struggle for self-determination by people who shared a common ancestry and history against oppressive regimes, rather than bloodlust nationalists eager to destroy humanity.
In addition, the rise of Fascism in Nazi Germany constituted the next major expansion of nationalist ideology. Through a complex mixture of isolationism, expansionism and a relentless deceptive propaganda campaign, Hitler succeeded in casting European Jews and the rest of the world in a negative light and a security threat to Germans to gain support for his genocide and fascist ideals. Even then, nationalism was merely a tool used by the Nazis to mobilize the German population to protect private ownership of institutions and capitalism that faced the growing threat of unionization and the emergence of a working middle class. The supposedly new anti-democratic system was only a façade cleverly contrived as the practical cure of Marxism. John Strachey’s The Menace of Fascism: the Marxist View captured Hitler’s successful use of nationalism to further his capitalist agendas. “They [the Germans],” he argued, “sincerely believed, in spite of the fact that each successive Fascist government when it gets into power does nothing of the sort, that their movement will nationalize big banks and trusts, and will discipline the capitalists as well as the workers,” he added (p. 103).
Decolonization delivered the next wave of nationalist movements after World War II when the colonies began rejecting assimilation in favor of autonomous statehood. Whether with imperial powers’ blessings, like the British colonies, or through much resistance, as it were in the case of France, Portugal and the Netherlands, these movements toward national identity marked the second third of the twentieth century. India represents a perfect case study of successful nationalist uprising when it won its independence from the British in 1947. Some nine years later, in 1956, Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammad Jinnah, champions of the independence movement through a persisting nonviolent campaign, parted ways and divided the country into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and India. This Indian example covered in Library of Congress’ A Country Study: India, underlines the constant human aspiration for self-governance and freedom from the authoritarian grip of imperialism.
Finally, the adoption and ratifications of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its protocols ushered in a new era or more modern views of nationalism during the latter third of the twentieth century. Yet, immigration in the U.S. among other international cases helps illustrate this new breed of nationalists. Far from the violent means of their forebears, immigrants to the United States usually gravitate toward familiarity among people who share common characteristics, values and history. Hence, geographical segmentations like Little Havana and Little Haiti in Miami or China Town and Little Italy in New York provides well-defined cultural settings for foreigners to interact while maintain original values from their homelands.
On a macro level, the Geneva Convention on Genocide recognizes a people’s right to revolt against oppressive governments as a mean of obtaining representation or self-determination as long as opposition parties obey the doctrine of war established by the Conventions. Urethrae and South Sudan independence movements are among many recent examples. After years of ethnic and religious conflicts, South Sudanese people peacefully voted to become independent from Muslim dominated Northern Sudan. Likewise, Ethiopia was also divided into two states after many violent eruptions over disputed lands and religious ideologies.
At the height of globalization and the Internet age, nationalism continues to dominate the political landscape. While interdependency of globalization inevitably link sovereign nations together in many dimensions, it is evident that the world is getting increasingly smaller as people seek freedom. In the case of British decolonization, leaders recognized the need for change and embraced it, which resulted into peaceful transfers of power and autonomy for its colonies. In contrast, other countries that resisted change fueled nationalism and promoted greater unity among opposing parties. Framed as a constant struggle for self-determination or liberation movement, nationalism symbolizes what postmodern Democratic societies strive for: equality, dignity, sovereignty and freedom. This people-centered power structure aims at achieving democracy’s highest ideals: liberty and justice for all. Most importantly, the history helps paint authoritarianism and oppression as the evil entity that provoked much of the unrests that plague the century, rather than nationalism.
Rapadoo O,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Welcome to the FPA

The Foreign Policy Association Bridges America to the World

New York, NY, Globalization has created a world without frontier and the Foreign Policy association (FPA) is America’s bridge to the rest of the world. Founded in 1918 as the League of Free Nations Association, the Foreign Policy Association’s originated with 141 distinguished Americans to support President Woodrow Wilson's efforts to achieve a just peace. Five years later, it became the Foreign Policy Association with a commitment to the careful study of all sides of international questions affecting the U.S. John Foster Dulles and Eleanor Roosevelt were among the incorporators.
The FPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring the American public to learn more about the world. It serves as a catalyst for developing awareness, understanding of, and providing informed opinions on global issues. Through its balanced, nonpartisan programs and publications, the FPA encourages citizens to participate in the foreign policy process.
While FPA's mission remains much the same today, the programs implemented to achieve this mission have evolved with time and have helped accomplished several milestones, which help explain the dynamism of the association and it’s role in developing an informed citizenry. Through its initiatives, FPA hopes to help advance human interests beyond America’s physical and cultural frontiers.
The Foreign Policy Association celebrated its 57th year in 1995. With a membership of close to 600, it continued to involve discerning participants from the Greater New York area who meet 11 times a year to hear and to question leading authorities on foreign affairs.
FPA pioneered international affairs radio discussions by broadcasting New York meetings and weekly talks on "The World Today" over the NBC network. Today however, FPA's national television and radio programs, and educational outreach across the country, bring FPA programs to millions of Americans. For instance, the Great Decisions program, entirely based on the annual briefing book prepared by FPA's editors, has become the largest nonpartisan public education program on international affairs in the world.
Business, academy and international organizations that share a commitment to educating Americans about world issues make up the Board of Directors. In a his monthly publication, Noel V. Lateef—president of the Foreign Policy Association declared, “In 2008 the Foreign Policy Association marked its 90th year of public education in world affairs. This anniversary was celebrated with a sense of heightened purpose and with confidence that the coming years leading up to our centennial will be among the Association¹s best.” He later added, “Our confidence derives from our expanded capabilities to engage the public in general and educators and students in particular. Underpinning our programmatic outreach is the conviction that education is key to a robust constitutional democracy.”
Inarguably, these qualified leaders are committed to advancement on not only of the American society as a whole, but also to the ideals of the international community as they relate to its American counterparts. Decisions made on the international scene inevitably affect the way domestic legislators shape policies, which in turn, influence the lives of citizens. Such a dynamic environment cannot be ignored and demand an engaged and vigilant citizenry if this republic based on democratic principles is to strive and remain competitive; hence the important role of the Foreign Policy association.
In addition, this role underwent enormous expansion in the 1970s. Among those who have addressed the association’s audiences are Great Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and China's Premier Zhao Ziyang. Furthermore, India's Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi also made similar address. Other influential figures include Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Australia's Prime Minister Robert Hawke, and the Soviet Union's Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard A. Shevardnadze.
His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II of Lesotho, Nicaragua's President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico, President Carlos Saul Menem of Argentina, as well as then-Governor Bill Clinton, Secretaries of State and Secretaries of Defense have made captivating addresses for the NGO. These aforementioned occurrences reinforced the status of the association and boosted its credibility ratings in the eyes of the world.
Moreover, FPA employs a very proactive approach when it comes to educating young people and prepare them for the plurality of divergence whether here in America or abroad. Indeed, the newest member of the Board of Directors, Marilyn Carlson Nelson noted, "The contribution the Foreign Policy Association makes to informing debate on, and understanding of, global issues and to providing a broad-based curriculum for colleges is dramatic. One might say it is essential if Americans are to be truly informed and engaged in our nation¹s role in the world."
That school of thought incited the creation of the Foreign Policy Association University (FPAU). Along with its competent teachers, the university offers numerous courses in foreign policy services. For example, individuals seeking employment with the Central Intelligence Agency, the United Nations or the Federal Bureau of Investigations can register in the course that teaches them about the process and the mechanics of the job. Similarly, professionals who are not satisfied with their current career choices can find a platform that helps them make better, informed choices. Most interestingly, the various partnerships the FPA has with several universities, the instructors are able to teach those courses on partner campuses making it convenient for students to attend.
In spite of its rich history, the FPA continues to evolve with the times as the Internet and its many dimensions evolve. Foreign Policy Blogs is the largest network of global affairs blogs with an estimated circulation of 60,000 subscribers. Staffed by professional contributors from the worlds of journalism, academia, business, non-profits and think tanks, the FPB network tracks global developments from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between, daily. The FPB network is a production of the Foreign Policy Association.
Finally, the association launched the Great Decision, mentioned earlier, in Oregon. Since it original launch in 1954, the program’s in-depth analysis and coverage of global issues have been called the best in foreign affairs on the global scene. The Great Decisions Global Affairs Education Discussion Program includes an annual Briefing Book, the Great Decisions television series on PBS, the National Opinion Ballot Report, thousands of discussion groups across the country and the GD Online newsletter.
Taking a stroll at FPA offices at 470 Park Avenue South in New York, one may get a sense that the workers there have no sense of organization with huge piles of papers on every desk and even on the floor. However, upon the realization of what these devoted, modestly pay employees do and how well it all comes together, one may actually feel some appreciation towards them. The Founding Fathers had a vision: an informed electorate will make informed decisions in the affairs of their state. The Foreign Policy Association reinforces these values and expands the vision through its innovative and dynamic initiatives.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law (II)

States legislators in support of the measure echoed similar sentiments arguing they did what they had to in the face of the federal government’s indifference.   Arizona was merely complimenting (but not contradicting) federal policy and/or filling a void where no policy existed. Tom Price, chairman of the Republican Study Committee inferred, "States like Arizona should not have to act on their own, but Washington's decades of neglect for border security leave them no choice."
Meanwhile, Critics of the law were just as passionate in their opposition to the bill. First, President Obama’s administration, one of the harshest opponents of Arizona SB-1070, wasted no time bringing an action suit against the state of Arizona seeking an injunction to prevent the law from going into effect. Second, at least four pending lawsuits against the Arizona law sought similar ends, one of which was allowed to move forward after a federal judge threw out a challenge by Gov. Jan Brewer and others. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued a detailed ruling denying the governor’s motion to dismiss the claims. In her ruling, she found that the plaintiffs, led by the Phoenix advocacy group Friendly House and the American Civil Liberties Union had enough ground to bring the lawsuit. Similarly, Mexico also challenged the measure and so have civil libertarians, arguing the new policies violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment as well as the Fourth Amendment's search-and-seizure clause.
Furthermore, opponents of the measure refer to it as a “vague law” due largely to the obscure language used to write the law. Term such as “reasonable suspicion” as police discretion is a perfect example since the lack of specificity in the language casted too wide a net and may help target innocent citizens unfairly. Other scholars argued the vagueness of the law may even --as it pertained to a highly critical Hispanic press-- provided government the tools to target and harass individuals deemed as nuisances; hence, a chilling effect preventing the exercise of their freedom of expression or contributions to the marketplace of ideas. The Obama administration hopes its aggressive actions against Arizona will send a strong message and deter states such as South Carolina and Texas, among many, from considering their own version of Arizona SB-1070.
As the United States vs. Arizona makes its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 1, “I will battle all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary,” exclaimed the governor vowing to appeal Judge Bolton’s ruling. Much to the contrary, the federal government is allocating and utilizing all of its resources to ensure that the immigration debate does not go down that slippery slope: actions that could unleash unprecedented ripple effects throughout the states, or worse, erode the federal government’s preemptive supremacy.
Discussions around the Arizona Act unveiled various interesting opinions. Some looked to Aristotle and his golden mean argument in pursuit of a balancing act. Others vehemently reject Gov. Brewer’s campaign as a political stunt fueling an already highly divided, saturated atmosphere. Still, other people highlighted the judicial process to frame their arguments for or against the Arizona measure. For instance, some feared that the failure to carefully weigh the competing interests of Arizonians against those of the greater society while taking into account the role of the federal government might cause certain states to target individuals unfairly. A system of checks and balances, argued some members, is a necessary tool to ensure that states do not abuse their power.
In addition, many concerned citizens stated while it was important to consider the rights of American citizens, it was equally important to consider their lives as it relates to the economic health of particular states. Jobs offered to illegal immigrants, they argued, are jobs denied to American citizens and could potentially raise unemployment rates; hence making life miserable for Americans. While some members of the press conceded the necessity for immigration reforms were long overdue, they also highlighted the importance of a comprehensive approach to ensure uniformity in the application of the law. Those analysts perceive the problem as a breakdown in society rather than a problem of particular ethnic groups.
In spite off obvious disagreements on immigration issues, two ideologically consistent views emerged from the discussions: a consensus on the supremacy of the US Constitution and the importance of the judicial process in ensuring careful analysis of a problem by qualified and trained professionals before the application of any piece of arbitrary legislation.

1)    Nill, A. (Producer). (2010). Social and economic justice. [Web]. Retrieved from
2)    Bloomberg, M. (2010, April 28). How Arizona new immigration law will hurt America: mayor Michael Bloomberg assails the new immigration statute. New York Daily news, Retrieved from
3)    Gladiel, P. (2005, July 6). Jobs Americans won'd do? An open letter to president George w. bush. Retrieved from
4)    Markon, Jerry, & McCrummen, Stephanie. (2010, July 29). Arizona immigration law sb 1070 - judge blocks some sections.
5)    NEPA Conservative , Initials. (2010, April 30). Arizona versus federal immigration law. Retrieved from
6)    Archibold, R. C. (2010, April 23). The new york times. Retrieved from       
Gerson, M. (2010, April 29). The washington post. Retrieved from 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law (I)

 Stare decisis is a school of thought that encourages judges to interpret and apply the laws based on precedents established by other court rulings. Based on the common law, this process ensures internal consistency and predictable application of the entire body of law. However, in the case of Arizona SB-1070, legal scholars wonder what the precedent for San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will be on November 1, 2010 when it hears United States v Arizona. After all, Arizona is pioneering this immigration legislation initiative, an area seen exclusively, through the eyes of the Supreme Court, as a federal domain except in certain conditions.
Arizona SB-1070 makes it a state misdemeanor offense for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying required federal documents, bars state or local officials from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws, and cracks down on people who shelter, hire or transport illegal aliens. Failure to comply with the new law would result in a $500 minimum fine as a first offense, and a fine up to $1,000 dollars and 6 months in jail for second time offenders. This controversial immigration law provoked a heated debate nationwide even before Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, signed the bill into law on April 23, 2010. While critics and proponents alike agreed that it is the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, their opinions of the legislation have drawn sharp contrasts. Supporters argued the law forbids the use of race as the sole basis for investigating immigration status. On the other hand, critics decried the legislation encouraged racial profiling, an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.
Since immigration debates in the U.S. usually reflect the social, economic and political climate of particular periods, Arizona’s bold attempt on reform necessitates a historical frame to contextualize it. In addition, arguments on both sides of the debate also provide some context as it pertains to the law’s content and its affects on Arizonians. Finally, Arizona SB-1070’s deliberate intrusion into exclusive federal domains puts the system of federalism to task, thus thrusting Arizona in a direct conflict with the federal government.
Yes,” declared Senator John McCain –Arizona republican and former presidential candidate— “we need to control our borders. No one argues with that... But we don’t need ballot initiatives that make people think we want them to abandon their hopes because some of us don’t believe the American Dream is big enough to share anymore.” Yet, the history of immigration reform in the U.S. sometimes paints a very different picture than the comprehensive one the senator described. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the 1965 Immigration Act were race-based. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and 1996, granted amnesty to thousands of immigrants while attempting to double the U.S. Border Patrol to 10,000 in five years at the most heavily trafficked areas of the U.S.-Mexico border. More recently, the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, giving the federal government broad powers to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists has highlighted the discourse of overreaching governance, ethnicity, race and social stratification.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Arizona housed about 460,000 undocumented immigrants and until the passage of SB-1070, immigration offenses were violations of federal law, something most local law-enforcement agencies could not enforce. The legislative approval came after months of impassioned debate, fueled – to a large degree-- by an outrage over the murder of rancher Robert Krentz shot along well-known smuggling routes near the border. Among the Border States, Arizona has the largest number of illegal aliens crossing from Mexico and holds the most arrests by US Border Control. The measure passed the Arizona House by a 35-21 vote with exclusive Republican support. It then passed the Senate with a vote of 17-11 supported by all Republicans except Sen. Carolyn Allen. Both House and Senate Democrats opposed the bill. As a result, many legal challenges disputing the constitutionality of the law immediately followed.
Although public opinion generally differs vastly on immigration issues, the Arizona measure is popular in that state and elsewhere. According to the latest polls, 52 percent of Arizonians supported the legislation and while some residents did not support it whole-heartedly, they expressed the need for immigration reform. Supporters of the legislation have attempted to draw a clear distinction between Arizona’s stance on illegal immigration and immigration in general. They stress that the issues surrounding immigration in Border States were complex and did not reflect the black and white, clear-cut options other states had. While some call the Southern part of Arizona the “free-for-all” half, residents grow increasingly wary of the prevalence of violent crimes spilling over from Mexico and its drug lords and the flood of illegal aliens invading their state.  Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City declared, "The U.S. Constitution says the federal government shall protect states from foreign invasion. The federal government has not done that. People get attacked continually; hence, Arizona needs to act."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Privacy, a Right to a Privilege (I)


         The great Constitution of the United States of America contains no expressed right to privacy, which leaves the Supreme Court in an uphill battle trying to establish some general guidelines as to what constitutes an individual's right to privacy.  For the most part, the Bill of Rights suggests that the Framers of the Constitution had some concerns about protecting specific aspects of individual privacy. For instance, the privacy of beliefs framed in the First Amendment and privacy of the home against demands to house soldiers guaranteed in the Third Amendment. Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment addressed privacy of persons and their possessions against unreasonable searches, and the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination provides protection for the privacy of personal information. The Ninth Amendment states that the "enumeration of certain rights," in the Bill of Rights, "shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people." 
Scholars agree that the meaning of the Ninth Amendment is somewhat elusive, thus privacy issues not only remain highly controversial but also constitute a slippery slope, which some attributes mainly to the ever-expending worlds of innovation and technology. As people get more comfortable with the illusions created by the Internet and its multiple dimensions, they tend to get complacent and less concerned about its implications. At this rate, the so-called right to privacy may soon become a right to a privilege. Unless people implement proactive and pragmatic solutions to retain vanishing values of freedom, this once natural right will dissipate.
         It is not a secret: an individual's right to privacy, a vital component of any healthy democracy, has become an endangered species in American society.  This era of Facebook, YouTube, twitter, “War on Terror” and our evolving Internet culture is rapidly redefining societal norms. Faithful members of social networks have little to no control over their own privacy and social networks have demonstrated that they are not bound by loyalty or ethics with respects to their privacy rights. However, people are willing to take enormous risks just to be cool or fit in.
Careful analysis of this relatively new phenomenon unveils three main factors eroding individuals of their rights to privacy. First, the overreaching hands of government, which American citizens have experienced first hand with the passage of the Patriot Act one month after September 11, 2001. Second, the rejection of citizenry for the seemingly limitless powers of consumerism via the Internet poses real threats to privacy. Both Sparks and Sunstein’s observations have been proven valid and on point in their assessment of the problem. Third, the rise of social media empires raises serious concerns among experts with their deliberate, yet subtle assaults on privacy rights. So-called social media have renegotiated the values of societal norms while reframing the argument with regard to what is acceptable or not.  Rights so fundamental to the human experience should undeniably be a priority to all citizens, but society’s plunge towards the realm of the privilege of privacy seems inevitable.
         One Aristotelian school of thought successfully argued happiness is the end to all things, which means that humans engage in a perpetual pursuit of happiness. It is natural, reasoned Aristotle, for people to live social lives because only as a member of society can individuals truly be happy. This perception implies successful societies require some structure and form of government to survive. For instance, the United States of America utilizes what experts call a deliberate democracy as opposed to other countries like China, which embraces communism, and Burma also known as Myanmar that is military ruled or a dictatorship.
While determining factors of successful forms of governments are entirely subjective, responsible governance shares a common interest: that is finding the intricate balance between the powers of government and the rights of individual citizens. Here again Aristotle's notion of temperate mean comes into play. He wrote in his book Nicomachean II (page 6); "Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate." Successful or virtuous societies must find that intermediate mean, which provides government with the necessary tools to promote the national interest while validating its citizens’ rights to pursue their own happiness. 
         It is therefore safe to infer individuals deprived of the right to privacy could eventually lose their freedom of speech as well. For as history has taught us, people get self-conscious to the point of modifying their behaviors when under the watchful eyes of influential others.  Hence, just knowing the government is on the other end of our phone calls, in our living rooms, workplace, or church instills chilling effects preventing citizens’ free speech. Solove made a similar argument in his "Nothing to Hide" article. He stated that the "utilitarian balancing between individual rights and the common good rarely favors individual rights—unless the interest advanced on the side of the common good is trivial.  Greater society will generally win when its interests are balanced against those of the individual."
Following this logic, the equilibrium that kept the U.S. government and its citizens on equal footing when it came to privacy rights was lost with the passage of the Patriot Act after the deplorable events of September 11, 2001. Granted, a country under attack or in a state of war must undertake drastic measures to fortify its borders and protect its population. Further, the utter shock and horrors of airliners striking the World Trade Center towers was undoubtedly traumatic for all Americans and will haunt their dreams for years to come. Nevertheless, as the government tried to be swift in its response, it alienated the rights of its citizens.
In addition, the Telecommunication Act between 2001 and 2006 tipped that balance even further towards the government and its corporate partners. To the surprise of many, the National Security Agency (NSA) urged AT&T, Verizon, Quest and BellSouth to share records of their customers’ conversations with the government without any legal authority. Arguing the legality of such actions, critics imagined obtaining warrants on legal grounds to combat terrorism would be relatively easy for the NSA in a post-9/11 era. However, it insisted on such controversial and harmful requests fully aware of its implications.
AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth complied with the NSA’s requests forfeiting the rights of their customers; however, Quest challenged the National Security Agency to produce legal documents for their request. This example validates Solove's point: it is simply not enough to say that since one has nothing to hide, it is ok to allow government and its agencies to permit "roving wiretap" authority, which allows the interception of any communications made to or by an intelligence target without specifying the particular telephone line, computer or other facility to be monitored.
These deliberate and intrusive actions undermine the social value of privacy, considered by many theorists to be inherently personal that validates the sovereignty of individuals. Can we, for example, call prisoners free men and women simply because they can eat, sleep, play, and even study while in incarceration? The forfeiture of their rights comes at the hands of their crimes; consequently, prison guards monitor them constantly.
The evidence seems clear: too much censorship constitutes some form of social control, a punishment for deviance, not sovereignty for free citizens. Freedom of expression has a linear relationship with privacy rights and government boundaries; hence, any abuse of authority or variation in one factor will affect the other factors directly. Such rationale compelled observers to ask one question: how far the government will go to deny the rights of its citizens in the name of the greater good?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

mcDonalization of Society I

              It is not without merit that Henry Fayol is credited or described by many scholars as the “father of modern operational-management theory.” The Frenchman was a visionary in his approach to organizational management. Although some would be critical of his ideology, as did many of his contemporaries; nevertheless, his lasting influence was unmistakable. In fact, his groundbreaking work served as blueprints for modern operational management. Later though, Theorists such as Max Weber and Frederic Taylor offered some more scholarly and micro approaches to management other than the prescriptive one Fayol offered. Although all three theories shared some characteristics, Weber’s perspective was largely idealistic. According to Miller, his Theory of Bureaucracy unveiled characteristics of a particular form of organization. He argued that they were closed systems that emphasized the importance of rules and the functioning of authority.  
Frederick Taylor presented yet another perspective of management. He developed the Theory of Scientific Management. In this model, he abandoned the macro perspective for a more efficient micro construct of organizational functioning. As we track agency throughout the history of formal operational management, we will discuss its role in the classical era, the humanistic approaches, and the McDonaldlization phenomenon.
Being at the dusk of a rigid pre-industrial era and the dawn of the industrial revolution, the mechanistic ideology that shaped industry’s new horizon seemed inevitable.  Hence, the diffusion of the “machine metaphor,” which relied on the principles of specialization, standardization, and predictability, knew no barriers.  In fact, the unidirectional flow of communication in the classical era ensured that agency rested solely with management. The worker was viewed as a specialized robot in human flesh. George Ritzer’s assembly line argument is a prime example. It did not lack efficiency, it was made up of highly specialized tasks, and the division of labor confined workers to one predictable skill. He called these practices the basic elements of formal rationalization.  In sum, Fayol prescribed to managers, Weber aimed at the organization, and Taylor invented the best way to do a job. None on them advocated on behalf of the worker. Therefore, agency for them was nonexistent and their valued contribution was physical in nature. These ethical standards may be questionable or even morally repugnant to a post-modernist, given our accelerated rate of growth since. Nonetheless, the productivity factor was by no means spurious. Without any a priori scientific paradigms, classical management quickly became the norm. The “mom and pop” management style dissipated, giving birth to the dehumanizing culture of industrialism and its robots.
Naturally, if we accept the premise of the first law of thermodynamics, we know that power does not exist in a vacuum. When we squeeze power one way, it eventually comes out somewhere else.  Not surprisingly, as a result of the oppressive nature of classical management of organizations, several new theories would emerge trying to shift the balance.
Inspired to a great degree by the Hawthorne Studies, the spotlight was placed on human needs. Elton Mayo and his research team suggested management practices that met the needs of workers to increase productivity. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory was instrumental. He argued that in order to reach self-actualization, human needs had to be met at a very basic level. He was simply saying that happy workers would be more productive. Douglas McGregor was another strong advocate of the Human Relations approach. He developed the Theory X and Theory Y. In The X factor, management was motivated by remnants of the classical era, whereas the Y factor praised managers who emphasized Human Relations principles.
           Unfortunately, the manipulative measures in which this approach was implemented made it short lived. Consequently, the Human Resources approach emerged. It was a revised version of the previous approach, but put emphasis both on productivity and the satisfaction of individual workers. Agency, in both these approaches, shifted hands. Organizations loosened their unforgiving rules and workers were afforded some rights even though communication moved horizontally during that time. That was a 180-degree turn around from the iron fist of the classical concept. To illustrate, today’s buzz is about Google’s human resources approach to operational management. One can argue that this company goes beyond the basic need of its workers. Google offers free rides to work, free breakfast in Google cafés, free gourmet food in more than 19 onsite Google’s upscale restaurants, enormous free gyms, massages, resting places, washing machines, subsidized daycare program, etc… This approach was unheard of even at the pinnacle of the humanitarian era. It is not surprising that Google now receives about 20,000 applications monthly as a result. This illustration is a clear indication that Google’s implementation of Human Resources principles is at least one of the factors boosting profitability and productivity. Most importantly, perhaps, this management style also confirms that the “happy cow” metaphor is alive and well.
                                                                                                                     Part 2 continues below           


McDonalization of Society II

Moreover, the “McDonald phenomenon” of almost a decade ago baffled observers even today. This occurred in 1992 during the now infamous L.A. Riots. In the midst of total destruction that the city faced at the crushing hands of rioters protesting the not guilty verdict of the four police officers in the Rodney King case, 30 McDonald restaurants within the riot area remained untouched. Everything else was impotent to the fist of destruction. How could this be? Many quickly attributed this to the restaurant’s philanthropist efforts in the affected communities, the success of its public relations initiatives, and even luck. But as I read the McDonalization of society, I now wonder if it were indeed that simple or if there were other factors at play.
Further analysis of these occurrences seem to add some validity to the argument that Ray Kroc’s initiatives have worked their way to the psyche of society.
            Today, we determine value in terms of quantitative velocity as opposed to the outdated qualitative originality. For instance, we are willing to replace our relatively new cell phones for newer, overpriced, and supposedly faster ones in spite of the erosion of individuals’ privacy embedded in the convenient technology. Further, we are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the intimacy of face-to-face interaction.  Instead, texting is fast, efficient, concise, and emotions are reduced to a few pretentious symbols. We LOL (laughing out loud) for instance without even opening our mouth. Moreover, dieting and exercising have virtually become motionless activities except perhaps in the case of devout athletes and/or empowered youth. We swallow a pill, drink a shake, or wear a belt in some cases, go to sleep, and “boom” we are said to have run the equivalent of a few miles and have lost weight.  In addition, who has time for lecture halls, professors, and fellow students when we can get an entire education staring at a computer screen in the comfort of our home while multitasking? The more productive we seem to be, the less time we want to spend doing it. Hence, we make up routines that ensure efficiency, predictability, and to some extent standardization. Sadly enough, we fight for individualism and basic humanity in the workplace; yet, we live highly rationalized lives cleverly contrived as self-actualization and luxury. In other words, we have become nothing more than robots with few remaining human characteristics racing against time. Ronald Takaki was right on point when he said; “The self was place in confinement, its emotions controlled, and its spirits subdued.” Although we will not admit it, we no longer value spontaneity. In fact, we do not want any surprises. We are habitual users who repeatedly migrate toward the same activities over and over. One cannot help but wonder where does agency go when rationalization invades every aspect of our personal lives.
            Frederick Taylor has been long gone, yet his gigantic footprints are implanted in the psyche of societal norms. The concept of McDonalization was simply a tool of diffusion. It was a bridge standing tall over culture lag and nostalgia, and it linked us inevitably to the industrial machine. Kroc’s innovations took a relatively macro concept and fit it into the practicality of daily living. As a result, we build ourselves a “scientifically” managed environment founded on Taylor’s “one best way” mantra and Weber’s notion of rationalization.
            In conclusion, taking a retroactive look at McDonald’s irrefutable success over the last half-century, the shift in the psychographics of the global society becomes evident. Hence, it is safe to argue that beyond selling Big Macs, happy meals, and building franchises, Ray Kroc was selling something that was, undoubtedly, more powerful than a full stomach. He was selling ideals, which would subsequently give birth to a psychological revolution in the American consciousness. Our adoption of that ideology gave us the touch screen, post modernist status we so thoroughly enjoy today. Further, those ideals were not indigenous to the American society. The world wide application of the McDonalization theory exemplifies their universality. Finally, the only remaining aspect of the diffusion process of this McDonalization ideology is an invention robot that will replace our politicians. They would be efficient, predictable, highly productive, and a whole lot cheaper.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flickering Hope

Immersed in the agony of the distraught victims, and 20 million cubic meters of rubble, some little candles --sparks of hope-- barely noticeable, are flickering in Haiti. They are optimistic signs indicating that the lives of many Haitians are improving. However, if like most people, you were bombarded with traumatic images of the reprehensible conditions plaguing the refugee camps on June 12th, you too, might have missed some stories of success slowly bubbling to the surface.

The situation in Haiti is by no mean unambiguous. Observers would need two sets of lenses to fully comprehend the enormity of the problem.  First, “retrospective” lenses would bring into focus pre-catastrophic conditions: they could be anachronistic, yet imperative to grasp that reality. Second, “actuality” lenses would unveil the post-quake reality, serve as a measuring device, and perhaps help broaden perceptions.
Absent a set of binoculars, former President Bill Clinton’s remarks will have to do. "To those who say we have not done enough, I think all of us who are working in this area agree this is a harder job (than the tsunami)," Clinton stated referring to the massive 2004 Indonesian Tsunami. "Viewed comparatively,” he continued, “I think the Haitian government and the people who are working here have done well in the last six months."

A glimpse into the grim Haitian reality prior to the earthquake according to Oxfam Solidarite, a humanitarian organization working in Haiti for 32 years.

55% of the population lived with less than $1.25 per day
86% of the urban population lived in slums
47% of the population did not have access to basic health services
83% of the population did not have an adequate access to medical care

With a literacy rate of 45 percent, a stunning 55 percent of school-aged children were out of school prior to the demolition. Six months later however, UNICEF estimated that the earthquake affected 90 percent of 4,992 schools. Further, its six-month progress report, Milestones at Six Months, revealed that about 80 percent of schools in Port-au-Prince and all schools in three other major cities that were severely hit have reopened. This was a significant development considering the fact that 60 percent under the age of 18.

“Education is key,” said Ms. Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “We have to have all children at school and we have to have quality of education. It will be really complicated. It’s a long process and we have to be all together – partnering, not competing,” she added. Equally noticeable, these children are not roaming the streets freely where ill-advised practices could attract them.

In addition to education, significant progress has been made in the medical front as well, largely under the radar. Coordinated efforts of the 4 major medical organizations (the Red Cross, MSF, Doctors of the World and FRIEND) have made medical care available to more than a half-million people.

Since the catastrophe, nearly all of the health centers (at least those still standing after the quake) have reopened, administering much needed care free of charge. These organizations have also undertaken massive vaccination campaigns, a deterrent to possible outbreaks of preventable diseases.

The National Center for Cooperation and Development (CNCD) reported that 90 percent of the population had access to health care, whereas before a shocking 60 percent of Haitians could not afford to consult a doctor. Noticeably, there has been no epidemic outbreak; hence the worst did not come. Additionally, several other NGOs have provided safe water, latrines, and other basic health services to the refugees’ camps.

Furthermore, more than 30,000 people have participated in the “Work for Food Program” directed by World Food Program or WFP. Also, more than 150,000 people have received food and other incentives through this project. Moreover, the participants are paid $5 dollars every day for helping clean the streets, the construction of the irrigation canals, and other activities to face the cyclonic season. That is about three times the daily wage the majority of working Haitians made before Jan 12th.  By year-end, it’s projected that more than 140,000 Haitians will have a regular income thanks to the program. WFP will also make it possible to nourish 700,000 people through December. Although temporary, these kinds of program will help Haitians regain some sanity and keep them from desperate criminal behaviors.
In addition, athletes and high profile celebrities continue to lend moral support to Haitians.  For instance, since soccer has always been a main source of entertainment for Haitians, it was a special treat when Lionel “Leo” Messi, FIFA World Player of the Year, showed up in Haiti eager to have firsthand experience with what he had only learned through media coverage. The world-renowned FC Barcelona and Argentina national football team player said, “It was overwhelming to see the overcrowded displacement camps, the poverty in which people here live,” after visiting Carrefour Aviation, a camp where 50,000 displaced Haitians live in tents. “I believe that sports are really important for children. I learned my most important lessons in life through sport. It is where I had my opportunity, and I wish the same for them.”
Inarguably, many people are suffering in Haiti right now.  Words do not do justice to their ordeals. These flickering flames, though, have fostered at least some hope in the heart of a people yearning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.