The topics on this are old, but I discuss my trip from India. With computer trouble, I could not upload it earlier. I also talk about Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Obama’s Middle East policy. Next time, I will do some editing and add music!
Category Archives: India
My latest travel was to the great subcontinent of India with some classmates of mine. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and witnessed some great and disturbing sites. India is a “third world” nation, that term is part of the Cold War jargon that now refers to our own self superiority over the country so naturally I despise using it, that thrives in the world as an upcoming international superpower while retaining the status of a country with high levels of poverty. It is a country trying to join the nuclear club and has child beggars. It finds solace in traditions established long ago yet is shedding its identity quickly for a more western look. It also has a woman president, but many women in the country lack sufficient political rights or political empowerment in the countryside.
As my title suggests, India is a land filled with contradictions. I’ve already described India’s potential problem for becoming a superpower, so there is no need to relish the thought again. However, I do have a few other thoughts that I observed that might encapsulate my experience a bit more broadly, especially in relation to the American experience:
Globalization vs. Americanization: In international relations, the term globalization is used to described cultures trading customs with one another as multinational corporations spread from continent to continent. My contention is not that we live in a globalized world, but rather, an Americanized world. My first day in India, we walked to a strip mall near our hotel that had a McDonalds, Sabarro Pizza, and a Ruby Tuesdays. I also heard the voices of Justin Bieber, Backstreet Boys, and John Mayer through the loudspeakers at malls and restaurants multiple times. Even in the foothills of the Himalayas the blatant corporatism of Coke and Pepsi glistened near the roadside snack stands. Sadly, in the U.S. we only share some Bollywood movies and the occasional local Indian restaurant. Not a fair trade in my mind. Do we just call it globalization to make ourselves feel less like a dominating power? Is this the way America holds a soft power empire? My answer is that we probably are not heading towards a globalized world, but an Americanized world and that could have severe consequences for cultural traditions and global resentfulness.
Keep Dreaming American Exceptionalists: This point my contradict my last point, but it should be noted. If you attend Roanoke College the ideas of American exceptionalism have been on your mind lately, at least since the last Henry Fowler Lecture when a debate took place over the topic. There are two arguments to justify America’s preeminence in the world. First, the power the U.S. holds and its global hegemony make it an exceptional nation. From my point about Americanization, I do not dispute that claim. In fact, America’s fall could be further away than we think. Second, America’s power comes from its historical difference that makes it unique. We are not that damn special is my response. India has been conquered by Islamic, Hindu, and Arab rulers. Through all of it, the country has been able to weather the storm and keep its religious heritage and also add new traditions. Seeing old Islamic worship sites with Hindu gods in them and a poster with Jesus and the stations of the cross on it in a Hindu Ashram prove India to be a melting pot of religious excellence. It is these religious traditions that have guided India and make Indians proud of their country, similar to how the Judeo-Christian tradition has made many proud to be Americans. So, we are not the only country with this exceptionalist fervor. In fact, I think India’s is much stronger and better than our own.
Grassroots Organisations are the Key to International Relations: In 2000, the U.N. set up the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG was meant to increase literacy, end poverty, end hunger, and a whole host of other problems plaguing the planet by 2015. Of course, that will probably never happen, but at least their trying. Our group went to a local village called Badhgaon to a local NGO that talk about water conservation as part of the U.N. Hunger Project. It was two men who told the women of this village to plant their crops further apart to save water and to make small canals for irrigation purposes. Some of the women, who have been planting for years, argued with the men. Others listened intently. At the end a short demonstration was done, which some of my classmates participated in. The point here is that international policy might be made by diplomats in Brooks Bros. suits, but it is the on the ground organizations that carry out the orders. If any of the MDGs are met, it will be because of these brave men and women. Beyond the U.N., we also saw a Hindu Ashram for girls and a school for street children led by paid volunteers who want to make a difference in the lives of many. I envy these people for all the work they do to help make India a better place.
The EPA is Wonderful: In the U.S., congresssmen, particularly on the GOP side, but some moderate Democrats are guilty of this too, complain about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA), “overreach.” After just returning from a country with less than stellar air quality, having allergies in India is not fun, and needing to cover my mouth just to breathe, I am more thankful for government regulation of air quality than ever before. For that matter, having clean water is not bad either. To be fair, Richard Nixon started the EPA and George H.W. Bush passed the Clean Air Act, so the Republican Party has been environmentally friendly before. However, I will say this. If having the EPA continue to regulate the air and water supply is socialism, then that is socialism I can live with!
Other Random Thoughts: I want to end with some other great thoughts about India and some things we might want to consider adopting in the U.S: yes the Taj Mahal is even better seen in person, I love driving in India (feeling like you will die around every turn is like a Disneyland ride, only better), I did eat street food and it was delicious (thank you Dr. Rob Willingham for that advice), elephant rides are so cool, the Himalayan sunrise was worth waking up early to see, marseille chai tea should replace coffee in the U.S., I love taking hot showers again, pissing on the side of the road in front of the bus full of women was definitely an experience, and I am rich in Indian rupees, but poor in American dollars.
Photo Credit: Google Images
I know that blogging has been slow the last month. With exams, then my India trip, and little access to the internet, it has been hard to do commentary. However, you have nothing to fear. I plan to start blogging again tomorrow with the “Morning Memo” resuming on Friday. My first post will be on my trip to India!
I would also like to announce that a friend of mine at Roanoke College, Jayme Inman, will also start writing some posts for my blog on various topics! When that will start I am not sure. He is a smart guy and a good writer with sharp analysis, so it will be good. I promise! Anyway, when I recover from jet lag the fun will soon begin. Until then, if you want to view pictures of my trip from India you can read the blog my class did. Here is the link:
The former governor or Alaska is visiting India this weekend. She devoted her time to discussing China’s sudden military buildup, purported her version of “Freedom Agenda,” and took on the U.S. media. The most important criticism she made was towards President Obama on Libya. AOL News notes:
Palin was coy about whether she planned to run for the White House, but at times sounded like she was campaigning. She took a swipe at President Barack Obama and what she described as his “dithering” response to the political upheaval in the Middle East, saying he “should have done more for Arab protesters.”
As I mentioned before, expect this “late to the game” argument to take off in the Republican Party. When you are out of power, it is much easier to makes claims about waiting to long before acting, but hindsight is always 20/20. Some have argued that Sarah Palin could be finding her own foreign policy doctrine. Benyamin Korn, Director of Jewish Americans for Sarah Pain writes an op-ed in the New York Sun describing it this way:
More broadly, Mrs. Palin’s address in India will be another step in the growing outline of what might be called The Palin Doctrine. It contrasts sharply with the foreign policy being conducted, if that is the word, by President Obama, who is perplexing not only the Arab world, to which he reached out in his Cairo speech at the start of his presidency, but even his own supporters in the liberal camp, and many in between, who are upset by what might be called his propensity for inaction. It’s an inaction that suggests the Arab League won’t be the only institution that might find itself surprised by the logic of the alert Alaskan.
In a world of uncertainty, Palin could be trying to re-brand herself in the George W. Bush mold of “the Decider” who will make a decision and never look back. It could be appealing to those who are looking for swift action and not just talk.