Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm back to this sort of reading again, you know: reading about things like:

global analysis, global neorealist perspectives, metatheoretical styles, reductionist rationalism, false consciousness, international relations theory, neoliberal institutionalism, scholars of a postconstructuralist or neo-Grotian bent, epistemological and methodological polemics, transnational social movements, rational voluntaristic authority, dialectical and internally contradictory character of overarching cultural frameworks, conflictual differentiation, cognitive ontology, Durkheimian social facts, dialectical processes of world-polity development, Tocquevillean world, existential assumptions, universalism, plebiscitarian world polity, and the penetrative capacity of global processes.

Judging from the photo below, you can see the reading is enthralling and I've had no problem staying conscious...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wow, more interesting stuff today. In my Management of Information Organizations class (or whatever it's called), we focused on ethics. Heady stuff. What are ethics? Why are they important? What is the difference between ethics and morals? Between ethics and law? We discussed 5 streams of ethics, including deontolgical, utilitarian, social contract, rights-based, and virtue.

We also did an interesting exercise. We were handed a long list of values. Take a look at this list, then cross off 10 that don't really describe you/ don't describe you all the time/ aren't that important to you/ ones you can live without.

Fairness Flexibility Experimentation
Initiative Cautiousness Cooperation
Innovation Quality Independence
Hierarchy Diversity Broad-mindedness
Democracy Courtesy Change
Autonomy Humor Forgiveness
Formality Cost- Conformity
Control consciousness Customer service
Individuality Creativity Respect for the individual
Obedience Openness Teamwork
Honesty Adaptability Changing the status quo
Merit Community Consideration
Accountability Aggressiveness Logic
Development Diligence Social equality
Integrity Orderliness Loyalty
Self-discipline Courage Professionalism
Compassion Transparency Politeness
Precision Revenge Accuracy

Think about yourself and be honest - cross off another 10.
Have you done that?
Now cross off another 10.
This is probably getting difficult and hard to cross things off. But you have to cross off 10 more. You should be left with 4 values.

Do these reflect who you are the most? Are these indeed the most important values to you - the ones you can't live without?
These values probably have a price though. Would you even be willing to give these up in certain situations? What situations? What is the price of these values?

For the record, I was left with integrity, compassion, humor, and adaptability.

I'm still not sure about those - I've been going back and forth all day. Do those really describe me the most? Are those the most important values to me? Are they important but not really the ones I ascribe to all the time, merely what I hope to? Or do they describe me quite well? I'm sure the resulting list also depends on what mood you're in and all those things.

Well, I'm off to read some particularly exciting stuff on globalization. =)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I've started this post over several times - but now I'm glad I waited till after my class. I just returned from my class on Cross Cultural Communication. During the class today and during my preparation reading for it, I had several 'aha' moments that I'm still thinking about. I can't believe how much is being packed into this little 1 credit class!

So first, today I was reading a long chapter by Milton Bennett called Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. Bennett's model includes two major stages: the ethnocentric stages and the ethnorelative stages. Within the ethnocentric stages are Denial (isolation & separation), Defense (Denigration, Superiority, & Reversal), and Minimization (Physical Universalism & Transcendant Universalism). The ethnorelative stages are Acceptance (respect for behavioral difference & respect for value difference), Adaptation (empathy & pluralism), and Integration (contextual evaluation & constructive marginality).

It was interesting, I'll be honest, as I was reading through the section on ethnocentrism to see myself a little bit. Specifically, I know there have been times in the past when I probably had a sense of cultural superiority. I think it was innocent, and definitely before I had travelled! And I've also seen instances of Reversal - when a person turns around and thinks all other cultures are good and his/her own is bad.

But then I read the following paragraph:

"In a kind of abstract parallel to the concrete behavioral assumptions of physical universalism, transcendant universalism suggests that all human beings, whether they know it or not, are products of some single transcendent principle, law, or imperative. The obvious example of this view is any religion which holds that all people are creations of a particular supernatural entity or force. The statement, "We are all God's children," is indicative of this religious form of universalism, particularly when the "children" include people who don't subscribe to the same god."

I have been in a bit of shock most of the day after reading this, trying to grapple with it. I am a person of faith and grew up with that particular phrase. I never thought of that as indicative of ethnocentric behavior. On the one hand, it makes sense. Other people, other cultures, have different religions, different realities, different truths. But on the other hand... - I grew up a person of faith and that's where I'm at. I'm not sure what else to say here, though there are a lot of thoughts swirling around. I'm curious what response there is from all of you?

With that fresh in my mind I went off to class. One of the first things the professor did was attempt to give us a crash course in speaking Arabic! She spoke only in Arabic, with lots of gestures and pointing and trying to get us to understand and repeat words and phrases and learn. It was overwhelming. I felt lost, confused, a bit dumb - as did most of us in the class. If only these things were written down! I thought, then I could say them more easily.

As we were discussing the experience that idea came up. But then the professor related that to some of our reading about the Hmong who, until recently, were a pre-literate group. They had no written alphabet and no concept of reading and understanding those symbols. If a person isn't able to read, if they're illiterate, they can't use that extra assistance for learning. They can't write things down or take notes or see something visually.

And the realizations and connections kept rolling on. I did that huge project in one class last quarter about the literacy rates and education in Guatemala. I suddenly had a better understanding of what that meant. I especially remembered that literacy is defined differently in different places. In some areas, being literate is being able to write your name - and that's it!
It made me think of experiences on the bus, when someone is trying to get to a particular address. They know enough English to say the address or place they want to go. If the driver doesn't know where that is the person is in trouble. Sometimes I think the drivers don't realize that was all the English that person might have known. I can see the complete look of confusion as the driver goes off about other streets, other routes to take, where to find those routes, etc. And of course the person doesn't understand and asks the same question again. The communication breakdown is amazing.

Of course I keep thinking of this because of my approaching trip to Guatemala. When I went briefly last year I thought I knew enough Spanish to get along...but I had another thing coming! I was the person standing there, trying to figure out what was going on, realizing I had a very small vocabulary and I could not communicate. It's a scary and overwhelming place to be. And I'm taking myself back there in about 9 weeks!

I should sign off for now and go on to my readings for tomorrow, on business ethics. Oh joy!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

How reading is.

I'm in the midst of reading for my last required International Development class. This class is Managing Policy in a Global Context. It has more of a macro view than some of the other classes I've taken in the program. The reading is pretty intense. In preparation for tomorrow's class I've been reading a series of articles and reports that touch on the following topics:

the Westphalian conception of sovereignty, international law, International Convention on the Protection of Civil and Political Rights, the Helsinki Convention, global governance, multilateral cooperation among states, democratic theory, nation states, IGOs, NGOs, GANs, UN, BIS, the IMF, the World Bank, WTO, NATO, globalization, globalism, human rights norms, transgovernmental networks, transnational networks, International Organization of Securities Regulators, liberalism, Agenda 21, Bretton Woods institutions, USAID, embedded autonomy, neo-utilitarian theories, nation-state failure, human security, authoritarianism, neo-liberalism, Sicilian politics, populist politics, Stackelberg leaders and followers, constitutional political economy, infant industry protection, theory of bureaucracy, the Official Secrets Act of 1923, the Washington Consensus, mainstream economics, macroeconomic volatility, and asymmetries in market access, just to name a few.

As I'm reading these articles I'm supposed to think about and answer a few questions:
1. How is governance different from government?
2. What are my notions of good governance?
3. What is the range of different kinds of nation-states and how does this affect human security and development?
4. What is my notion of democracy and how does this relate to human security and development?
5. What is the difference between institutions and organizations?

It's interesting stuff, but I haven't quite wrapped my head around all of it yet...