Political Thoughts

Washington continues to meddle in countries and create chaos, from Ukraine to Syria. How about keeping that money here at home? How about building or fixing bridges? In the U.S., some roads are so bad people should wear helmets in their cars; it’s like riding in a Dune Buggy. And Washington is sending more tax dollars abroad. It would be different if it were multilateral aid and went to helping people, but much of it goes to sow death and destruction.

U.S. tax dollars have gone to support Daesh (ISIS).  The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey have been arming, for some time now, what they call “moderate rebels.” Many of these rebels joined Daesh.

In the 1980’s the CIA armed the Mujahideen in Afghanistan; yes, they gave Bin Laden a big push start.  The Pakistani ISI played intermediary, so he didn’t know his support was coming from Washington; he thought it was coming from independent Arab money. But a lot of people know that by now, so why does Washington continue to make the same mistakes? Can they not stop their greed? Do they have a lust for blood? What is wrong with these people in power? Most should be aware that it was the CIA that worked to radicalize the madrassas in Afghanistan, to get the Muslims out in the provinces all excited about fighting the very popular socialist government in Kabul and the “Soviet infidels.”

The Israel lobby’s lock on Washington has a lot to do with the insane Middle East policy. Is it any wonder why Washington targeted Assad? As George Galloway pointed out, Syria was one of the few Arab countries that didn’t have Mossad agents crawling everywhere. In recent years, the U.S. has worked to overthrow secular autocratic leaders in Libya and Iraq and replaced them with chaos and radicalism. They tried to do the same in Syria and created chaos, but will be unsuccessful in toppling Assad. That’s not to mention fourteen years in Afghanistan and strikes against Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. What a mess.

Then one takes a look at the Gulf states– US allies, which are little family run oil kingdoms. Talk about undemocratic. At one point, Kuwait had something like 26 members of the same family in their cabinet. The Bahraini government mowed down peaceful protesters and prevented them from accessing the hospital, while the U.S. 5th Fleet stood by and watched.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar are in the U.S  coalition to fight for “democracy” in Syria? This is a farce, but so is American politics– for example, the election with Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Trump sounds like a fascist– wanting to build a wall, deport 11 million people, and implement a database to track people of certain religious faiths– and Carson looks like he is on tranquilizers. And these are the Republican frontrunners.

I don’t even have a desire to teach politics in an American university anymore; I’m great with staying with software development. I think every Political Science Department from every university in the U.S. could be cut and there would be no difference and maybe an improvement. It’s a waste of time for students, in my opinion. It’s more propaganda than anything. Students would be better equipped by studying history, but not of the revisionist variety, and political philosophy in the Philosophy Department. There is absolutely nothing scientific about political science. It’s amazing to look at some of the people in the revolving door between government and academia in this country, for example, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Madeleine Albright. These are bonified war criminals. Of course, students interested in becoming administrators could take public administration courses.

One might object, “But I want to study political science so I can enter politics.” For the most part, all one needs is money to enter the political arena (and be successful) in the United States. If Donald Trump doesn’t prove that true,  I don’t know what would. It will also help greatly if an aspiring politician has no core values and does what the big donors want while simultaneously giving lip service to issues important to the working masses. Therefore,  we can take someone sitting at a bus stop who is literate and has a decent image and as long as we have two million dollars to spare, we can probably get the person elected to Congress. High School students, if they pay attention, learn about the three branches of government– but their textbook won’t mention the reality of the U.S. Congress and the White House being owned by Wall Street. Anyway, the best education is a passport and a library card.

International Relations, as an academic discipline, began in Wales, primarily to study the causes of World War I and to prevent war in the future. That was a good idea. As a stand alone department, I think International Relations has its merits and is quite beneficial to study, but I would recommend studying IR in Europe and not in the U.S. Over the years, theories evolved and in the U.S. it  just became ridiculous with the “realism” and the “liberalism.” These are not theories rather ideologies used to promote American imperialism and they really don’t explain anything in their simplistic reasoning.

I could write a substantial amount on American Political Science and why it, in its current form, does more harm than good in our educational system. But there are a lot of things wrong with the educational system. I’ll save that for another time. I think I took one Political Science course during my undergraduate years. I majored in Theology followed by Religious Studies and was a passionate student activist, and moved on to Diplomacy and International Relations in grad school.

I’d like to think that a lot of my American brothers and sisters know what’s going on, but many may just feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. What are people going to do in the face of illegal invasions, arming terrorists, corruption, massive spying programs, and war crimes? I (along with many others) have done a lot of protesting, speaking, writing, and organizing. We do what we can and then have faith that God takes care of the rest.

Nevertheless, there is reason to hope. The Russians just installed the S-400 (Growler) defensive missile system in Syria, subsequent to the downing of their fighter jet. That effectively seals the skies over Syria and into neighboring countries. Somebody has to stand up to Washington’s madness for the good of the world and, frankly, for the good of the United States too. With Washington’s imperialistic behavior, a multipolar world is a safer world for everyone. After the mess that Washington created in the region (and beyond), I don’t see how any sane and moral person, who is paying attention, could have an ounce of trust in U.S. policy.

Education vs. Indoctrination in American Political Science Education

Noam Chomksy once said, “Get educated and I don’t mean go to school.” I recently went to work at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, on a one semester contract, to educate students in political science and international relations. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the overarching powers do not want to educate students, but rather to indoctrinate them and turn them into debt-ridden obedient workers. How does this relate to the role of a university professor in political science?

If you have tenure you can teach how you see fit on a long-term basis. Well, how does a  professor get tenure in the U.S? The famous psychologist Carl Rogers answered this question through his own experience:

I have often been grateful that I have never had to live through the frequently degrading competitive process of step-by-step promotion in university faculties, where individuals so frequently learn only one lesson – not to stick their necks out.

The operative phrase here is not to stick their necks out. Just as in politics, academics in political science are often weeded out by separating the ones who keep quiet on the most important moral and legal issues of our time and the ones that don’t, with the latter often being shown the door. Yes, there are some excellent professors in my field– let me put that out there so as not to offend those who are doing their jobs well, including some excellent human beings that I know personally. However, more often than not, if you ask a political scientist who is truly focused on educating students, you’ll likely hear that they feel they have to conceal truthful information in a wrapper and tip-toe around difficult issues. Some will say it is because this is a proper pedagogical method, letting students come to the information themselves. However, while this is good practice– since teaching is an art as well as a craft– what I have seen, far too often, is not a process of gently presenting students with sensitive material in a pedagogically sound manner, rather academics ignoring sensitive topics all together! There are at least two reasons why American students are not fully educated in political science and international relations.

1) Many political science professors and instructors went through the same American academic system in which they are working and are fully indoctrinated themselves.

2) Some academics in this field have a true commitment to educating students, but concerns for their employment cause them to walk on egg shells. They don’t want students to complain, nor do they want to catch the negative attention of the university administration– which is a big business entity as well as an educational institution. However, these types of academics tell themselves that their students are getting the material that is concealed in a carefully crafted wrapper– as if it is a subliminal message. One needs to take a good hard look at the general level of knowledge of American university students. It is poor, and it often sinks to embarrassing levels of ignorance. I’ve had university students that would still be stuck in eighth grade in many Western European countries. Many American college and university students have not had sufficient training in critical thinking, have only been taught revisionist history, and largely been exposed to biased, corporate news media coverage. How then are they to suddenly absorb and integrate such extremely subtle information that you, Mr. and  Mrs. Political Science Professor, think is given in such a pedagogically sound manner?

If you think everything is fine and dandy and the United States is a shining light on the hill, you are surely free to think as you like– but maybe it’s just because you never were allowed the opportunity to see a different perspective or a real history of your country. It is highly unlikely that you would see this other perspective in an American university– unless you find yourself in a class that I teach or in a class with someone else who has an equally bold commitment to truly educating students. This is a viewpoint and a lens with which much of the world views the United States. The good news is that this information is readily available to you if you desire it. In the words of Malcolm X, “I am not anti-American, the truth is anti-American. So don’t blame me, blame the truth.”

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment

The U.S. and Endless War

If you went to a high school and there was a kid that mirrored the dynamics of the U.S. government– I guarantee you would probably say, “What a jerk!” You might even call him a monster. Indeed, if this hypothetical world were fair at all, you probably wouldn’t run into that kid much at all, for he would have been thrown in juvenile detention for a laundry list of aggressive acts toward the weakest and most defenseless members of the student body. Of course, this troubled adolescent would have given altruistic reasons for why he had to beat up the 80lb kid or why it was necessary to make the school safe by kicking over the handicapped kid in the wheelchair. But since I have made this hypothetical high school world fair, nobody believed his ridiculous justifications and he was prosecuted to the full extent for his actions. If only our world functioned like that– maybe it partly does, but it just takes a very long time to see it, when the chickens come home to roost. Every action has a reaction. I wish my country would be a force for good, to take care of people at home, and to lead by example (but never forcing that example on others). Instead, we find the opposite– hypocrisy, empty rhetoric, and criminality. Nevertheless, those that believe in truth, justice, and peace must continue to work for a better world. I always tell my students that they can make a difference. One single person can make a difference, and you never know your true impact. You don’t know where the ripples end. You can be part of a movement that changes the world! In the meantime, why put yourself out there? The answer is in five simple words: It is right to do.

Tweaking the Speaking

I ‘ve been speaking to audiences large and small since I was in fourth grade—when I delivered MLK’s “I have a dream” speech at church. The largest crowd I have ever addressed was at a rally at San Francisco Civic Center in 2002—40,000 people protesting the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and against the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian territories. Since then, I’ve given many one-time lectures at universities, high schools, youth organizations, and policy organizations– in addition to teaching college and university courses. Most of my presentations have been of high quality; at times, I’ve been in the zone and seriously moved a crowd—on fire, the words rolling like crashing waves. A few times, I’ve made the mistake of speaking over the heads of my audience. You certainly can tell you are doing that when you look at the audience and see people sitting up tall like merkats with wide open eyes and befuddled gazes, straining to understand the information. One or two times, I momentarily blanked out and completely forgot what I was talking about. The one time this happened in an extremely noticeable way, a year and a half ago (perhaps it was from mental fatigue or a high TSH level or just nerves), a woman sitting in the front row whispered to me—“You’re okay, you’re okay. You got it.” And I got back on track. Thank goodness!! There’s nothing like being in front of a full room and thinking to yourself– what was I going to say? Thankfully, that hasn’t happened more than a couple of times. Anyway, it was a great gesture by this very nice woman. I appreciated it, because it refocused my brain and helped me get back on track. It wasn’t a great presentation at all, but those are the ones you can really learn from and make improvements and work to get better. It helps to get a video copy of your presentation to review. Remember, an audience, unless you are going into an unusually hostile situation, wants you to succeed. They feel awkward too if you mess up. The audience is on your side. So speaking, like writing or painting, is an art form, and one grows better with practice. Some performances are going to be better than others. If you have talent for it, some days you will be in the zone and may amaze the audience, other days it will be good but not great. But the job of a professional speaker is to make sure that you reach a level of consistency in your presentations, so that you never disappoint and that the audience always leaves feeling informed and hopefully slightly entertained.

Reflections on teaching in Hawaii

I was a lecturer in International Relations at UHH in Spring of 2014 on a one semester contract.

What I liked about teaching at the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH)?

I loved sharing ideas and information, and hopefully inspiring some students.

The most rewarding part of the experience?

It was definitely having some students tell me at the end of the semester that I influenced the way they thought about the world. I really cared about inspiring and informing my students. The small administrative staff in my division was helpful and friendly. I appreciated that. The secretary, if that is the right title (it might not be), was always friendly and it was nice to go check my office box and say hello.

The most enraging moment of my experience?

There is only one moment that I can say really got me angry, and that would be when I asked mid-semester if the department had any faculty meetings and was told that I “wasn’t part of the faculty,” even though I had a faculty card and was officially full time. The previous school I worked at and many other colleges and universities invite adjuncts to faculty meetings, however this department, although it is small, did not. I couldn’t believe it, with all the work I was putting in to do my job, to actually be told that I wasn’t part of the faculty. Also, when I went to the new faculty and staff orientation, I was completely ignored or forgotten when they called new employees to be recognized– as if lecturers are just hired wage slaves not deserving of courtesy. I was annoyed. I think this should be discussed in a wider post about the poor conditions for adjuncts or in a post just on bad manners.

The worst part?

Hilo is a boring place to live unless you are a surfer (and the beaches are not very nice there) or studying volcanoes. Everything (and that’s not much) shuts down at around 9p.m., which leaves you with the only option of 7-11, a very sub-par out of the way diner, or McDonald’s– which I never eat. There is a lot of nature in the surrounding areas, but when you are working really hard and long hours, it’s nice to have something open at night. I was grateful for the manager of my apartment for welcoming me with Aloha spirit and taking me to see the volcanoes and for someone taking me to see Kona before I left the island, but as far as campus community for a lecturer or faculty events– there was absolutely nothing. Given how small a community it is– I would have thought it would be a little more open than just going through the motions and doing the bare minimum, if anything at all. I appreciated the few hallway conversations I had with a couple of the more outgoing or friendlier of my colleagues and the cup of tea with one. The United Nations Association of America Hilo Branch welcomed me with open arms as a member of their board and gave me a great farewell dinner, which was very nice of them. But as far as any structural cohesion or communication from my department, there was none, and I wished that there had been. I remember passing a dinner event and asking the security guard what was happening, and he told me it was a faculty dinner, and I laughed and responded, “I guess I didn’t get the memo.” I didn’t get an invitation.

My personal worst moment in Hilo?

I had food poisoning or a norovirus that hit me one Saturday. I’ll spare you the details, but in dedicated fashion I dragged myself into work on Monday and showed my students an interesting film. I didn’t eat for almost a week. I thought it might have been the crab cakes that I had eaten.

What I took away?

I had good experiences teaching, but I was quite isolated and bored in Hilo. During the summer, I attended the World Congress of Political Science in Montreal (a great city), and at the end of my trip I found myself mentally fatigued– part of that was probably due to the stress of my experience in Hilo, which could actually be any little podunk town in the middle of nowhere USA, except it has a coastline. A few weeks ago, I found out that I was hypothyroid with a TSH level of 9.24 and then 8.35, and this also may have greatly contributed to my feeling tired– in addition to a lot of work, travel, and that experience in the middle of the ocean.

I will write more about my experiences in Hawaii later…to be continued.