Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How a More Relevant UN Secretary General Can Reduce Global Conflicts

The recent years have seen renewed prospects of regional violence.  Just in Africa, internal repression of Eritrea, disorder in Burundi, and tense standoff between Muslim and Christians in Central African Republic, to name a few, continue to disrupt the normal livelihoods of millions.  One point of commonality among these conflicts has been an acute lack of international intervention to prevent escalation.  The lack of international interest has been most visible in these conflicts’ lack of appearance in global headlines, where international conflicts of choice have largely been those in the Middle East. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feeling Human Fragility Revisited: How Breakdown of Authority Leads to Breakdown of Ethics

In the novel Blindness, Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a world where a sudden epidemic of unexplainable blindness that struck an entire population led to sudden collapse of human civilization.  Amidst the disorder of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is reduced to blind savages only concerned about procuring enough food for survival, the lone woman who can still see witnesses how quickly human morals can fall apart, just as quickly as physical infrastructures and institutions.  Yet, the stories of camaraderie among strangers in distress also speak to the power of human bonds in collectively overcoming difficulties.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Does "Ethnic Convenience" Make Cultural Integration More Difficult?

There are certain areas of San Diego one can go to feel completely Asian.  Beside the palm tree-lined boulevards, Asian supermarkets, restaurants, and living goods stores completely fill malls and shopping centers, with only the ubiquitous American fast-food chains (which are also ubiquitous in major Asian cities these days) the only non-Asian physical presence.  Signs in Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean predominate, with English signs in much smaller fonts as translations for the Asian language signs.  Asian cars carrying Asian families stream in and out of the parking lots.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Pros and Cons of “Primitive” Primary Care in Rural Africa

If there is anything positive about living in rural Tanzania, it is the low price and availability of medicine.  Even in the most remote village, there tends to be one pharmacy that sells everything from Band-Aids to tablets that treats malaria.  With many generics that cost no more than a few USD for something that would cost many times more elsewhere, it makes sense for price-conscious foreigners to purchase medicines in rural Africa rather than in their home countries.  What if one falls ill?  In market towns across the country, district- and regional-level hospitals exist to provide basic treatments. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

English Use in Foreign Setting Revisited: Is Forceful Use of a Foreign Language Leading to Cultural Conflict?

One of the most difficult things about working in a foreign setting is the need to communicate with locals in the local language.  Many people are not talented in the art of learning new languages, and many locals have not had experience having to slow down their usual ways of talking to accommodate nonnative speakers of their local language.  The result is frustration on both sides.  For the learner, it is a daunting experience of facing an unknown tongue spoken with plenty of ridiculous speed and incomprehensive slangs.