Critique of Helene Cixous’ “The Laugh of the Medusa”

“Every woman has known the torment of getting up to speak.  Her heart racing, at times entirely lost for words, ground and language slipping away – that’s how daring a feat, how great a transgression it is for a woman to speak – even just open her mouth – in public.  A double distress, for even if she transgresses, her words fall almost always upon the deaf male ear, which hears in language only that which speaks in the masculine.  It is by writing from and toward women, and by taking up the challenge of speech which has been governed by the phallus, that women will confirm women in a place other than that which is reserved in and by the symbolic, that is, in a place other than silence.  Women should break out of the snare of silence.” [126-127]

Helene Cixous’ work about the role of women in public speaking depicts a woman in the utmost submissive and passive manner (in accordance to historical portrayal).  She is seen and not heard, viewed as an object for male desire and never having intelligible nor purposeful contribution to writing and public speech.  It is such a transgression for woman to speak because they must overcome the ‘male’ sense of words in order to establish a female speech rather than ‘not man.’  The public speaking women go through is a transgression because they must overcome the “heart racing, at times entirely lost for words, ground and language slipping away,” feeling that overcomes them.  These stigmas must be overcome in order to be heard and even be acknowledged for the sake of being acknowledged and for words to have meaning.

For the words to have meaning there is the difficulty of a double distress.  A double distress in the abovementioned quote refers to the possibility of words being formulated and expressed in a consistent manner but only heard if they are made in a masculine sense.  The words used fall on the deaf ears of men because they are not attuned to recognising feminine words.  Once the words that are masculine are spoken, the femininity of the speaker is in question.  A “trick” that has found a slight “loophole” in the double distress is when a ‘not male’ person, woman, uses her feminine characteristics to attract the male logos into accepting the words used.  Though the women are still stuck using ‘male’ words to attract men into accepting what they are saying.

The most obvious examples of women in power are not the most elegant and slight model types of persons; they denote power and strength not only in their words but also in their appearance and demeanour.  Angela Merkel the German Chancellor and Margaret Thatcher the former Prime Minister of Britain are women that represent strength in a “masculine” nature and are not what tabloids dub to be slight and “feminine.”  Merkel in particular has continued to dominate a traditionally male profession, politics.  She has outlasted many of her male counterparts though her speech and topics are masculine in nature and for Germany, the Fatherland.  The late Princess Diana is one of the best examples for overcoming the transgression of public speaking and also eluding the double distress that accompanies it.  She is known world wide for having grace, poise, beauty, and infinitely ore feminine characteristics.  It is what the media and the public were drawn to and captivated by.  Though Diana is unique in the sense that she used her feminine attributes and assets to promote her various charities and causes.  Her speeches had a masculine undertone and were driven patiently by masculine topics.  AIDS and HIV were unknown and dangerous diseases at the time, and Diana took it upon herself to make it a less feared disease for the world.  AIDS was considered a “homosexual” or a drug addict’s disease thus making it a ‘not male’ topic.  I use ‘not male’ as a description of AIDS because in modern and contemporary history it has been considered a less than masculine state to be “gay.”  Diana convincingly used her fame in the United States and worldwide icon status as a vehicle to promote and bring awareness to these no male issues that the logos eventually focused its attention on.


Is the World Flat?

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman depicts an ever-changing world that is becoming flat even though we know it to be round.   He says that there have been two different eras of Globalisation to occur, proceeded by the present, third era.  Through the experience of these eras, the world has shifted and modulated in many facets, both politically, economically, physically, and technologically.  The work of these eras, intentional or inadvertent, has left an ethical breadcrumb trail, which we can follow and use to determine whether our ideologies and understanding of what the world should be is the best fit for the world over.  My critique of Thomas Friedman’s article is not to diminish his stance and conclusion that the world is flat.  I will be arguing that the world is flat for a particular group of nations and individuals.  The main thesis of the article, which comes from a larger piece of work, is the world is flat and becoming flattened.  Through new businesses and the introduction of billions of individuals having access to the Internet, there are new methods and forms of communication causing everything to become a virtual network; and it is defining the twenty-first century.  I agree with the thesis of the article with the exception of the inaccuracies that are revealed in Friedman’s arguments and examples to support his thesis.  The examples used are aimed towards a particular type of world order, our world order.  Is there an ethical justification for imposing the lifestyle we live in the West (North America, Europe) and Far East (China, Japan, India) on the rest of the world?  Is the economic state of affairs able to support the heavy weight of our technological burden?  Is the infrastructure that is already in place good enough as is, or functional?  Are these societies able to adjust in a Globalisation 3.0 era?  These are the questions that I will be addressing in this paper, and subsequently showing that the world is not entirely flat, nor is it flattening at an alarming pace.

The world has gone through eras of Globalisation since the 15th century, according to Thomas Friedman.  He also claims that the world is in a third era of Globalisation that is new and developing day-to-day.  The first era occurred from 1492 to 1800.  This is labelled by Friedman as Globalisation 1.0, and it caused the world shrink in size from what he calls size large to size medium.  Globalisation 1.0 was focused on countries developing and ‘expanding’ abroad.  Examples that he uses are of Spain landing in America, Great Britain colonising India, as well as Portugal in the East Indies and East Asia.  The second era of Globalisation, Globalisation 2.0, occurred from 1820-2000. This era, according to Friedman, shrunk the world from size medium to size small.  In contrast to the first era’s country development and expansion, Globalisation 2.0 is focused around “companies globalising for markets and for labour.”[1]  Companies linked the world together and created a network that revealed new horizons of which the world had never seen.  The third era, which we are currently adapting to, is what Friedman calls Globalisation 3.0.  This era is ongoing and “shrinking the world from size small to size tiny and is, levelling and flattening the playing field at the same time.”[2]  This period is characterised by the connections that individuals and small groups are able to make on a global scale.  To explain this, Friedman sets about examining the days and forces that have caused this phenomenon.

The first day: November 9, 1989 brought about an enormous change in the world.  The fall of the Berlin Wall signified the end of a two-world order, the Eastern and Western Bloc.  Technologies and advancements that were developed in the Western bloc became a demand in the newly opened Eastern Europe.  Friedman uses the example of demand for the Windows operating system (OS) 3.0, which shipped to the east six months following The Wall’s collapse.  The second day is August 5th, 1995, the day that Netscape became public and as a result, the Internet browser was born.  “It is what allowed us to browse the Internet and visually see what was there.”[3]  This day set off the dot-com boom and in turn made any major modern cities in the world next-door neighbours.  The third day is labelled workflow.  This is effectively the solution to the interaction problems between different computer systems.  The sixth day, open sourcing, consists of people across the planet contributing to form a combined product.  Day seven is supply-chaining.  It involves product consumption and a business’ ability to start a replacement item.  When a customer buys (x) the store’s computer network registers the purchase and instructs the factory to build another (x) replacement.  Day eight is titled insourcing, which is the “take over” done by companies like UPS and FedEx.  Friedman refers to insourcing in this manner because “what UPS does now is go inside your company and take over your whole internal logistics operation right up to your neck.”[4]  The companies that the consumer believes he or she is dealing with do not touch their own product at any given point of the transaction.  Day nine, informing, was when individuals became able to seek information from a home computer (using, for example, Google).

Friedman writes with a perceived notion that the world in its entirety wants to be integrated into the flattening.  His flat world is based around a contemporary definition of technology.  I am presenting the definition of technology as two.  The first is an archaic definition.  The wheel defines archaic technology; it is a utility that has been forgotten in the contemporary definition.  In contrast, the contemporary definition of technology is defined by the computer chip, hardware and software and Wi-Fi.  The article by Thomas Friedman uses a more contemporary approach to defining technology and Globalisation 3.0.  Recognising these two distinctly different forms of technology is important because there is misconception that the rest of the world needs and wants to be brought up to the standard of living that is taken for granted.  The whole world is not becoming flat because much of it is unable to identify with our contemporary definition of technology.  The world is flat because individuals can connect with one another in more (high-tech) ways than ever before.  This is true but only to a marginal degree.  Developed countries have the resources and infrastructure established to support the demand that contemporary technology demands.  Parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America are unequipped to manage these luxuries.  I refer to contemporary technology as a luxury because “we actually only need air, water, and food to survive.”[5]  Friedman exclusively uses examples that pertain to the developed world in each of the abovementioned days.  He opens the article with examples of McDonald’s and JetBlue, followed by Windows (OS) 3.0 [day 1], Netscape (Internet) [day 2], Firefox and Wikipedia [day 6], UPS (Papa John’s Pizza) [day 8], Google [day 9], and finally Wi-Fi [day 10].  Each of these pertains to the developed world because it has gone through vigorous change and development to integrate and accommodate them to society.  These cannot be thrust upon a developing country or area of a country because the backdrop is not established.  Archaic technology has done its job with regard to facilitating the needs that certain economies and nations need.

In order for the world to become flat, it would require that the developed countries impose their beliefs and values on the developing countries.   This is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s poem The White Man’s Burden.  The poem depicts the need of the “white man” to bring the uncivilised world up to it’s level and to harness it in the making of his design.  This is indicative of what Friedman seems to be interpreting of the flattened world.  It is not the developed world’s responsibility to push its beliefs.  There is no discernible proof that contemporary technology is better than archaic, nor is the developed world axiomatically better than the developing.  The style of life is better but in a particular fashion that is determined by the developed.  It provides more service, but only to those that have gone through the evolution process.  In addition, the lack of economic generality is problematic, similar to the current ramifications in Europe today.

The Euro was created rashly causing the current downtrodden situation because the economic situation was not the same for every member.  Similarly, the same circumstances would occur because of the varying economic statuses and infrastructures in developing countries.  This is provoked by the lack of knowledge to sustain the technology and continue to allow it to be developed.  In retrospect, the language that is present in areas without contemporary technology is inadequate.  Twenty years ago the words Google or Wi-Fi were not words.  They were created and integrated based on other words that developed along with the contemporary technology.  It is impossible to define Google or Wi-Fi without using other words that were created beforehand.

In closing, the world is not flat.  It has gone through two previous eras of Globalisation, 1.0 and 2.0, and is now working through era 3.0.  The arguments that Thomas Friedman makes in The World is Flat are accurate but in limited fashion.  They are accurate because we are adjusting to the contemporary definition of technology.  But the developing world (they) is not on the same playing field and therefore not able be a part of the individual that is defining Globalisation 3.0.  To be a part of 3.0 would require developed interference and input to match developed standards.  Our aspirations are noble nevertheless, how much help is too much help?  Friedman and the developed world need to cast away the white man’s burden and accept that the world is not flat.

[1] Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat, ed. Morton Winston & Ralph Edelbach (Boston: Wadswoth Cengage Learning, 2009), 155.

[2] Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat, 156.

[3] Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat, 156.

[4] Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat, 158.

[5] Norton Winston, introduction to Society, Ethics, and Technology, ed. Morton Winston & Ralph Edelbach (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009), 1.

The Rise and Sustainability of Power by Joseph Stalin in the Post-Revolution Soviet Union: Radical Political Philosophies, Unrelenting Fear and Terror of the Great Purge and the Use of Propaganda and Re-Education to Sustain Power

Russia at the turn of the twentieth century was enduring hardships that proved to be detrimental to the reigning sovereign, Tsar Nicholas II.  The Russian people were suffering from poverty at the hands of the Romanov dynasty which had dismantled the once great Russian nation.  The pressure and resentment from the people finally exploded in 1917 resulting in the total dismantling and destruction of the Tsarist authority.  The entire Romanov family was brutally slain on the eve of the revolution and as a result a provisional government was implemented in March of that year.  Furthermore, a second revolution took place in October of 1917, which resulted in the promotion of the Bolshevik (Majority) Communist party to power.  Their leader, Vladimir Lenin, had captivated the Russian populous with his engaging speech and radical ideologies to improve Russia and return it to its once former glory.  However his time at the head of the country was short lived and as a result, the now infamous Joseph Stalin took the opportunity to take control of the government and enforce a brutal and harsh dictatorship.  The ideas of Lenin were dramatic and pushed the limits of Marxism to new boundaries, perhaps breaking them; but Stalin uncontrollably broke all borders of Marxism.  His political theory was based on communism but altered and is aptly named Stalinism.  Though despite the violence of the Revolution, Stalin was able to keep his power and his authority without much competition.  The measures that he took to keep his dictatorial authority are world-renowned and infamous for the cruelty and drastic measures undertaken.  The Great Purge in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s was a period in history that is likened to the atrocities performed by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) commonly referred as the Nazi Party; and thus produced the Holocaust at the behest of Adolf Hitler during the Second World War.  Radical political ideologies, totally unbridled terror and fear, as well the manipulation of the media and education system were tactics that Joseph Stalin implemented during his rise and reign of power following Lenin’s death.  Each component augmented his status as a ruthless tyrannical dictator and as the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union’s attempts of returning to former glory.

Joseph Stalin was a member of the Bolshevik party that replaced the provisional government and despite rumoured warnings former the then party leader, Lenin.  He was able to rise to unquestionable power because of the degraded state of the Russian people.  They had suffered hardships under the reign of Nicholas II who gained notoriety for his anti-Semitic campaigns.  The rise of the Bolsheviks to power saw a new era that promised Russia a return to its former glory and even surpass the former dominance in terms of agriculture and industry.  Stalin’s rise to power did not start with his initiative alone; the Bolshevik party was a key component of his rise.  Lenin stated, “We shall have occasion further on to deal with the political and organisational duties which the task of emancipating the whole people from the yoke of autocracy imposes upon us.”[1]  This type of powerful statement to the proletariat and the Russian population was instrumental in Stalin’s rise to power merely because he was a member of this government.  It can be argued that he attained control because of his association with Lenin and the rest of the Bolsheviks.  Without this he would not have been held in such high regard and ultimately unable to attain and retain his power.  Lenin’s death in January 1924, as a result of numerous strokes, allowed Stalin to play the interim leadership of the party against one another and ultimately remove them in a move that foreshadowed the fear that was to ensue during the Great Purge.  Stalin’s advocacy of public ownership is shown in an interview with English Author Herbert George Wells (H. G. Wells) on 23 July 1934.  In response to Wells’ question, Stalin responds as follows;

“As soon as Roosevelt, or any other captain in the contemporary bourgeois world, proceeds to undertake something serious against the foundation of capitalism, he will inevitable suffer utter defeat.  The banks, the industries, the large enterprises, the large farms are not in Roosevelt’s hands.  All these are private property.  The railroads the mercantile fleet, all these belong to private owners.”[2]

Stalin’s demand and vigorous argument for dismantling the privatisation of agriculture and industry, amongst other facets) is further bolstered with his argument of planned economy in the same interview.  “What is planned economy? What are some of its attributes?  Planned economy tries to abolish unemployment.”[3]  These words are inspirational to a country that was strife with poverty during the Tsarist autocracy and as a result influence belief and adoration for Stalin.  This type of adoration is prevalent in modern society and will continue to flourish because of the inadequate support from governments that in turn suppresses the populous.  A modern day example is of the Palestinian Islamist organisation, Hamas.  They have taken control of the West Bank and ousted the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) with the help of public approval.  The PLO has been unreliable for helping the Palestinian people and as a result, they have adopted Hamas as their political leader because they offer aid and support to the people whilst opposing suppression.  Despite their “terrorist” or extreme actions, they are generally accepted and are in good standing with the Palestinians in the West Bank that as aforementioned is similar to the situation in Russia, then Soviet Union.  Apart from a demonising nature, Stalin was accepted because of promises such as the abolishment of unemployment through the practice of planned economy.  He also denounces the violence that is used during the revolution, ironically.  As a stern practiser of communism, Stalin assures that, “communists do not in the least idealise the methods of violence…they see tat the old world is violently defending itself, and that i why the communists say to the working class: Answer violence with violence.”[4]  This is similar to the attempts by Lenin to promote Marxism to the Russian population, “ Marxism differs from anarchism in that it recognises the need for a state for the purpose of the transition to socialism.”[5]  In the text “Stalin: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium,” reference is made to Lenin’s own “reign of terror.”  Alter Litvin and John Keep relay; “it is wrong to distinguish between Stalin’s ‘Great’ Terror and a relatively ‘petty’ one under Lenin – especially if one bears in mind that during the civil war at least 1.5 million peaceful citizens fell victim to violence by the Reds or the Whites.”[6]  Stalin’s infamous Great Purge, has been popularised as ‘the Great Terror,’ and is the epitome of political censorship and the implementation of the police state.  Leon Trotsky wrote about Stalin’s rise to power in his book, ‘The Revolution Betrayed,’ “He brought it all the necessary guarantees: the prestige of an old Bolshevik, a strong character, narrow vision, and close bonds with the political machine as the sole source of his influence.”[7]  There are various portrayals of Stalin though this recount of his personality and ‘strong character’ is unfamiliar to most.  In contrast it is an appropriate summation of public opinion at the time.  Propaganda, doctored photos, and inspiring speeches of eliminating poverty invoked spirit and promise in the newly found leader.

The Great Purge was a political oppression that was brutish and nasty, shaking down the, then Soviet Union population and eradicating all who posed a threat to Joseph Stalin’s government or spoke out against it.  It has been aptly portrayed in several works of fiction throughout history, three of the most prominent are, “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” both written by George Orwell and “Darkness at Noon” by Arthur Koestler.  Each of these novels depict the Great Purge in a fictional setting, but are an accurate portrayal of the radical and oppressive regime that Stalin erected from the disorganisation after Lenin’s death.  “Animal Farm” takes place on Mr, and Mrs, Jones’ farm with a variety of animals that expel them, similar to that of Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanov family.  As a result the animals are left to control the farm (Russia)  The pigs are in control and eventually succumb to the power that they have over the other animals and secretly “edit” the rules that all of the inhabitants of the farm are supposed to abide by.  Eventually the leader of the animals, Old Major dies, which is synonymous of Lenin’s death leaving the pigs Napoleon (J. Stalin) and Snowball (L. Trotsky) to earn for leadership.  Eventually Snowball, like Trotsky was ousted leaving Napoleon (Stalin) in charge of the animals.  He has vicious dogs to become his police much like The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) was the secret police during the Great Purge.  Eventually Napoleon becomes the absolute dictator and forces them to work on the windmill, which could represent the Gulag (political prisoner camps) and the nefarious ‘Road of Bones.’  Despite the cruelty that the animals endure at the hands of Napoleon (Stalin), they are brainwashed and led to believe that their lives are much better off than with the humans (Tsar).  At a meeting of all the animals Napoleon forces four pigs confess to conspiracy with the exiled Snowball (Trotsky), as a result they are brutally slain in front of everyone resulting in three hens to comfort with false confessions because, “Snowball had appeared to them in a dream.”[8]  The animals are horrified by these acts but nonetheless return to work indignant with themselves; Boxer the horse exclaims, “I do not understand it. I would not have believed that such things could happen on our farm.  It must be due to some fault in ourselves.  The solution, as I see it, is to work harder.”[9]  This is symbolic of the workers in the Soviet Union who thought that punishment of others was a result of their own shortcomings.  This use of terror is what kept Stalin in power despite the corruption and unbridled terror.  Similarly, in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” the Thought Police plague society and keep them in a state of constant suspicion of others and fear of being prosecuted for what they say, do, or with whom they associate with.  This is the precise embodiment of life in Soviet Russia during Stalin’s reign; no person was able to make a notion against the government for fear of the NKVD finding out through spies or a neighbour, friend, or even a relative.  The following quote from the novel is a prime example of the oppression enforced by the NKVD, “A Party member lives from birth and death under the eye of the Thought Police.  Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone.”[10]  The mysterious Big Brother figure is unquestionably Joseph Stalin, “black-haired, black mustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm….”[11]  The torture and punishment one endured, if/when caught and ‘found guilty’ was infamously brutal and led prisoners to incriminate themselves and others; much of the time falsely.  The infamous Room 101, where the final torture scene for the protagonist William takes place, which is the ultimate fear within the Big Brother society, is resonant of the Kremlin and it’s secret innermost thoughts.  Thirdly, “Darkness at Noon,” also relays a torture scene where he protagonist falsely incriminates himself and others under the insurmountable duress of torture and psychological hardships employed by the interrogators.

These works of fiction are unfortunately accurate to Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.  It is well documented that by his order unrelenting terror swept the Soviet Union just as the fear of ‘Big Brother’ engulfed life in ‘Oceania,” the book’s fictional setting; “No reliable figure has yet been established for the total number of victims of political repression.”[12]  Though further research has proven that the statistics are inaccurate, but resent studies denotes previous estimates are higher than recorded.  According to these studies, “slightly less than 1 million people Robert Conquest’s number of seven million in the camps by 1938).e were confined in NKVD run camps on 1 January 1937, a number that rose to 1.3 million by 1939…These figures are a good deal lower than earlier estimates (for example, Robert Conquest’s number of seven million in the camps by 1938).”[13]  (There is irrefutable evidence that the information released by the present day KGB, which developed from the NKVD, is irregular and suspect).  In addition, the late Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow, Alexander Nove (1915-1994) published accounts of the inmates in the Gulag from “1937-1939: 1 January – 31 December 1937 = 996,367; 1 January 1938 – 31 December 1938 = 1,317,195; 1 January 1939 – 31 December 1939 = 1,344,408.”[14]  It must be fervently stressed that readers must keep in mind, any facts that are presented with regards to the number of inmates and executions are subject to falsities and inaccuracy as per the tone of the Soviet Union during the era as well as the maltreatment of prisoners from the Gulag that were buried into the road makes an exact total near impossible.  Not only did the populous suffer at the hand of dictatorship but so did the elite and military.  “Recent Russian studies show that he was directly involved in the repression of the Red Army leadership during the Terror;”[15] this could be the result of fear for a military coup orchestrated by military leaders.  The paranoia that Stalin endured throughout his reign as dictator contributed to his brutal atrocities.  As powerful and untouchable as he appeared to be to the commoners, he saw himself to be extremely vulnerable to a variety of incidents that could end his career and his life.  Even his closest acquaintances and allies were possible threats, “Stalin was always afraid of assassination and regarded his physicians and the security chiefs as his most dangerous foes.”[16]  With that in mind, no person within or outside of Stalin’s inner circles of the Kremlin were safe nor truly trustworthy, other than Joseph Stalin himself; “In 1934 he organised a judicial investigation into the so-called ‘case of the killer doctors.’”[17]  One of Stalin’s most notorious actions during the Great Purge was that of the Kulaks.  In a speech given on 31 January 1930, Stalin separates himself further from the Tsarist (Old) regime by describing his actions of eliminating as different from restricting.  Stalin dictates the following proclamation, “Can it, then, be affirmed that the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class is a continuation of the policy of restricting (and ousting) the capitalist elements in the countryside? Obviously, it cannot.”[18]  by comparing and contrasting the minute differences between his regime and the Tsars, Stalin was able to invoke a sense of accomplishment and improvement in social order amongst his followers.  He concludes the speech with riveting and resounding denouncement of the kulaks as a class and speaks of smashing them in open battle, depriving them of productive sources.

“Hence, the Party’s present policy in the countryside is not a continuation of the old policy, but a turn away from the old policy of restricting (and ousting) the capitalist elements in the countryside towards the new policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class.”[19]

The threat of elimination was prominent in Stalin’s political language and philosophy, but was never refuted with success as a result of unknown numbers of prisoners in the Gulag being killed whilst under forced labour.

Propaganda and education used by Stalin leading up to and during his dictatorship of the Soviet Union has proven to be notorious and rivalled by a select few.  Just as re-education was the final straw the broke the ‘proverbial camel’s’ back that is Winston Smith in George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ it was a part of the reconstruction for Soviet youth and more importantly the re-education of the broken spirits of the people.  The doctoring of photographs was not an uncommon practice for Stalin’s government and he was oft portrayed in a ‘Big Brother’ theme, as previously described in the second paragraph (terror and fear).  In addition to censoring of material, re-educating traditional Marxists and subscribers to Bolshevism and Menshevism was a key component for Stalinism to flourish.  In reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States, Stalin wrote, “Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism.  In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law…Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty.”[20]  In both the interview referenced in paragraph one (political ideologies) and the this response to anti-semitism in the Soviet Union, Stalin appears to be a sympathetic “internationalist” who is striving for the better of the nation whilst bringing change from the autocratic ‘Old Regime’ of the Romanov’s.  It has been well documented that Stalin’s imprisonment and sentencing to the Gulag during the Great Purge had anti-semetic connotations, however, this was not fully addressed by his government and never fully admitted.  This would have cause public outcry and would have diminished the party’s distinction from the former autocracy that was notorious for anti-semitism.  The NKVD also aided in the re-education and propaganda by enforcing harsh penalties for persons that did not conform to the, “ideologically homogenised population.”[21]  In the interview with H. G. Wells, Stalin decrees that, “Communists do not in the least idealise the methods of violence,”[22] in spite of evidence suggesting otherwise.  The international portrayal that he created of himself for his people was that of good standing with the ‘enemies’ of his own particular form of Communism, which in turn promoted his ‘false popularity.’

In conclusion, the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin is infamous and tyrannical without a doubt to the present day and can only be rivalled by a select few throughout humanities already cruel and dark history of violence and oppression of classes, cultures, and religions.  The implementation of the NKVD having near total control to arrest whomever they deemed was conspiring against the state, regardless the tone of the remark or the seeming severity.  The people became afraid of one another and discouraged each other from relaying potentially incriminating information about themselves or persons they knew; it would be the duty of the attending party to report the potential or real ‘offences’ or face the risk of their own imprisonment.  After The Revolution of 1917 Russia faced a potential problem with the failing health of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party.  Upon taking advantage of a distraught and amorphous society over the death of the vibrant and inspirational leader of the revolution, Stalin was able to introduce radical political ideologies that played on the desperation of the people to remove the autocracy from their social order.  Following his political victory, the Great Purge brought about rampant terror and fear from the NKVD and of family members and friends, and finally the use of propaganda and re-education with ardent emphasis on an altered form of Communism.  Despite Stalin’s promises of eradicating unemployment by means of planned economy and of returning the newly named Soviet Union to it’s former glory before the Romanov Dynasty.  Ultimately Joseph Stalin will not be remembered for returning Russia to its former glory, but for being a brutish and harsh dictator, sentencing the masses to the Gulag, ravaged the people and country in its entirety into a catatonic state of fear in a post-revolution era that had much promise for a flourishing brilliant future.


Keep, John, and Alter Litvin. Stalin: Russia and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2005.

Koestler, Arthur. “Darkness at Noon.” In Revolution in the Modern World Course Readings. Comiled by W. S. Cormack. Guelph: University of Guelph Press, 2010.

Lenin, Vladimir. Collected Works of V. I. Lenin V. 24, April – June 1917. Moscow: Foreign Language Publishers House, 1964.

Lenin, Vladimir. What Is To Be Done?. Complied by W. S. Cormack. Guelph: University of Guelph Press, 2010.

Nove, Alec. “Victims of Stalinism: How Many?.” In Stalinist Terror: New perspectives. edited by J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Mannin. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1963.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four, New York: Harcourt, Bruce & World, Inc., 1963.

Sigelbaum, Lewis. “Building Stalinism 1929-1941.” In Russia A History Third Edition. edited by George L. Freeze. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Stalin,Joseph. Works of J. V. Stalin V. 12, April 1929 – June 1930. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishers House, 1956.

Stalin, Joseph. Works of J. V. Stalin V. 13, July 1930 – January 1934. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishers House, 1955.

Stalin, Joseph. “J. Stalin – H. G. Wells: Marxism vs. Liberalism an interview.” by H. G. Wells. Marxist Pamphlets No.2. (4:00PM – 6:50PM) July 23, 1934.

Trotsky, Leon. The Revolution Betrayed: What is The Soviet Union And Where Is It Going?. New York: Merit Publishers, 1965.


Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties. Toronto: Macmillan Company. 1968.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila, Edit. Stalinism: New Directions. London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2000.

[1] Vladimir Lenin, What is to be done?,  ed. W.S. Cormack (Guelph, University of Guelph

press, 2010), 206.

[2] Joseph Stalin, interview by H. G. Wellls, J. Stalin – H. G. Wells: Marxism vs. Liberalism an interview, Marxist Pamphlet No. 2. 23 July 1934. 6-7.

[3] Joseph Stalin, interview by H. G. Wells, 5.

[4] Joseph Stalin, interview by H. G. Wells, 17.

[5] Vladimir Lenin, Collected Works of V. I. Lenin V. 24 April-June 1917 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1964), 85.

[6] John Keep and Alter Litvin, Stalin:Russia and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium (London: Rutledge, 2005), 59.

[7] Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What Is The Soviet Union And Where Is It Going? (New York: Merit Pub., 1965), 93.

[8] George Orwell, Animal Farm (Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1963), 73.

[9] George Orwell, Animal Farm, 75.

[10] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1963), 93.

[11] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 8.

[12] John Keep and Alter Litvin, 58.

[13] Lewis Sigelbaum, “Building Stalinism 1929-1941,” in Russia A History Third Edition, ed. Gregory L. Freeze (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 368.

[14] Alec Nove, “Victims of Stalinism: How Many?,” in Stalinist Terror: New perspectives, ed. J. Arch Getty and Roberta T. Manning (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), (Table 13.1) 270.

[15] John Keep and Alter Litvin, 41.

[16] John Keep and Alter Litvin, 38.

[17] John Keep and Alter Litvin, 38.

[18] Joseph Stalin, Works of J. V. Stalin V. 12 April 1929 – June 1930 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1956), 188.

[19] Joseph Stalin, 189.

[20] Joseph Stalin, Works of J. V. Stalin V. 13 July 1930 – January 1934 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1955), 30.

[21] John Keep and Alter Litvin, 41.

[22] Joseph Stalin, interview by H. G. Wells, 17.

Gleaning: Notion of a Second Life, ‘Take-A-Penny, Leave-A-Penny’

The notion of a second life can be misconstrued as a solely existential, after-life theory.  It involves all aspects of our lives, and applies to material objects as well as humans and animals.  There is a purpose for all things in life but it would be foolish and irresponsible to limit those purposes. We would miss out on so many opportunities in the world and would reduce our own planet to a heaving waste site gasping for air.  (We can already consider it to be at some extent.)  Some persons ascribe to the Aristotle view of the psyche; that the soul or essence of the object, person, or thing is in its actions and activity, rather than in the perceived plan that was assigned to it.  I plan to demonstrate that the ‘take-a-penny, leave–a-penny’ system promotes second life to not only the coin but also to the various containers used.  Through a weeklong ‘experiment’ I was able to discover intrinsic value to the system that promotes gleaning for all classes of person.  It also is valuable for bringing out the best of people and serves not only as a communal gleaning-pot, but also as an unspoken union the world-over.

Whilst buying myself a coffee the other day I was short a penny and did not want to be stuck with a load of useless change.  The ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ concept is a unique idea that is beneficial to society.  It applies to all classes of persons, though a few are appalled with taking or better yet, gleaning pennies to satisfy their caffeine craving.  It is without a doubt an act of gleaning, to pick up pennies because it is something of value to any person but it also serves as a necessity, to attain a penny in order to resist the urge to have excess change.  I am somewhat sceptical about taking a penny because I usually hoard my change as if they were magical.  And indeed they are, because they can be a godsend when exact change is hard to come by; or when large bills are only available in order to pay for a coffee which is a mere $1.33.  This method of thinking is somewhat selfish.  In the past I have shied away from buying only a coffee and throw in something else just to balance out when I have only a $20 bill at my disposal, out of guilt for the cashier.  But that was back in first year.  Now I make every attempt to utilise the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ option that is offered to me at all the registers I go to.  Someone else’s misfortune is my own glorious victory!  When I am able to glean a penny or two, I am spared the misfortune of carrying a number of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters needlessly.  The same is to be said for hot water.  It is merely 11 cents and that one proverbial penny is what makes the difference.  Most cashiers will be lenient to the ‘cost rule’ but there are a few who will force you to take a penny from the cut in half coffee cup which was gleaned and put to ulterior use for the ‘gleaning-pot.’ (But more on the coffee cup/’gleaning-pot’ will come later).  When taking money from the pot I am always reserved in doing so because it, technically, is not my money to take.  The cashier has gleaned the money from customers who do not wish to have their pennies because they are deemed unworthy and useless, much like I described as one of my reasons for using the pot.  Perhaps it is a sceptical point of view, and these people are merely charitable, sending out a gift that can be reused by others; a lesson I learned from this paper but to be explored further later on.  The cashier has made alternate use of them, in a rather selfless act.  Those pennies could potentially be put towards the tip jar, which neither I, nor anyone else should ever take from.  As a result, I feel compelled to ask the cashier, every single time, ‘may I take a penny?’  Over the past week (November 29th – December 6th) I have purposefully made sure to not bring out exact change to see if my methodology would change over prolonged use and repetition.  Ideally a week is not the best way to establish whether or not the trend will change but it is acceptable because of the time limit for the assignment.  Monday December 6th was my 8th visit to the cashier for a coffee or tea since I started the “experiment” on Monday November 29th, 2010.  Monday I had two coffees and subsequently asked the cashier, ‘May I have a penny?’ both times.  Without hesitation she exclaimed ‘Yes you may.’  On that day I gleaned 2 pennies and both times I was hesitant and reserved in asking whether I could take a penny form the cup.  The following day I brought my own tea bag and needed to pay only 11 cents.  I had two nickels in my pocket, and asked if I could again take another penny, though this was from a different cashier.  This is an important factor because it draws upon a possible bias in the experiment.  Had the same cashier been used throughout she may have noticed a pattern or that I’m thrifty.  Wednesday I had a tea and requested a penny.  Though I didn’t take it myself to see what would happen.  The cashier was kind enough to grab the penny, though I made a small speech about it exclaiming, ‘I’m sorry but I seem to be short a penny, would you mind if…?’  And I gestured towards the coffee cup.  Without hesitation she took a penny and said ‘not a problem at all.’  That same day I re-used my tea bag and filled up my travel mug in the downstairs washroom of the library.  Just turn the tap to hot and let it sit for a few seconds, 11 cents were saved and I avoided the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ (I’m aware of the water waste this causes).  I can attribute this to a bit of guilt knowing that I did have the change when I gleaned earlier that day.  Wednesday was the same situation as Monday, but only 1 coffee and penny was taken.  Thursday I did not take part in the experiment, and Friday I bought a coffee with a penny from the cut in half coffee cup, but found myself less hesitant to take from it.  I had already made the gesture towards the coffee cup as I was asking.  The cashier did not seem bothered by my forwardness and granted me permission.  Saturday I used debit, therefore I did not have to take from the jar at the Starbucks at which I was studying.  But I did feel accountable for all the pennies I had gleaned and put a dime in the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ jar at Starbucks.  Sunday I did not take part.  Monday December 6th I had a tea in the morning and resorted to taking a penny form the jar at the University Centre.  Later that day I had a coffee from the Williams in the library.  I noticed that the cut in half coffee cup with pennies is below the counter and not extremely accessible to customers.  As a result, I fished through my pockets and found exact change because I felt ashamed and unwelcome to take from that jar.  And it is also directly beside the tip jar, which furthered my uneasiness about gleaning.  The day after my gleaning ‘experiment’ was over I ran into a faculty member from the Music department here at the University in McKinnon.  We were both purchasing coffee and I noticed he put a significant amount of change (pennies, nickels, and dimes) in the ‘gleaning-pot’.  I quickly over-paid for my coffee and rushed after him to have an informal interview.  I quickly explained who I was and then the ‘experiment’ and thesis for this paper, then proceeded to ask why he put so much extra change into the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ cup and he responded with, “I always find myself short, (so it’s a way of paying it back.)”  This goes against my earlier Hobbesian claim that perhaps people don’t care for the excess change.  And also promotes the views of the aforementioned gleaning-pot which is in-itself, a gleaned object.  At all of the coffee klatch establishments I went to, on and off of campus, I noticed gleaned containers.  The coffee cup that was cut in half is a gleaned object and is providing a new found service.  It is still essentially, holding something from which we take (drink from) but it is being used to accommodate pennies.  For all we know the cup could have been malfunctioning and could have a hole in the bottom and as a result been thrown out in the recycling, or worse the, trash and certain doom!  At least in the recycling it has the chance at a second life, much like the ‘gleaning-pot’.

The idea of justice, a second life, and small gifts are in the philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas, Marcell Mauss, and Pierre Bourdieu and is prevalent in the Agnès Varda film Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse.  The ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ arrangement is very much based on a system of inter-human justice.  Inter-human is the relation between family, friends, and even enemies; and justice is the quality of being fair and reasonable.  Both of these are facets of the aforementioned gleaning system because it is dependent on both of these.  Levinas states that “in order to be just it is necessary to know: to objectify, compare, judge, form concepts…” (Levinas, 139)  These are all necessary for the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ system.  The inter-human factor is valuable because it is in conjunction with an unspoken justice system.  The coins that are left in the ‘gleaning-pots’ worldwide are left for anyone and everyone to use.  It is a passive method for bringing people together, even enemies.  These gifts are left in an undetermined state they believe will go to a better more practical use for someone in need.  It is in deed a charitable act and as such, gleaning because it is an act of gathering and collecting.  Gleaning: obtain from various sources; often with difficulty, collect gradually; gather (leftover grain) after a harvest. (Oxford Dictionary)  The last selection of the definition is the most necessary for the purposes of this paper, since the philosophy of gathering after a harvest can be extrapolated and reapplied to the ‘experiment’.  The harvest (coffee purchase) is done and then the payment is applied.  The leftover crops (coins) placed in the cut in half coffee cup to be gleaned (gathered) at a later date by whomever (friend, family, or foe).  Marcell Mauss is an advocate of grand gifts and does not advocate for the smaller “lesser” gifts that are shared.  But does have a policy about the actual act of gift giving and the make-up of it.  Three components encompass gift giving: giving, receiving, and reciprocation.  The act of giving is done when the customer leaves their coin for others to glean and make use of; the process of receiving is the actual gleaning thought and action performed when realising the money is available and then taking or in my case, asking for it; and finally the reciprocation is performed when excess funds are at the disposal of the gleaner and they repay the gift that which they took.  Though pennies, nickels, and dimes are not “big-ticket” items, the ideology behind them is the same.  One could argue that the minor coin is a big-ticket item to some people, i.e. the less fortunate.  Pierre Bourdieu contrasts Marcell Mauss’ philosophy of the big-ticket item by stating, “Big exchanges are not what the world is about.” (Dr, Houle 11/29/10)  Furthermore concluded from Bourdieu’s work, “We are all self interested and we are all free.” (Dr, Houle 11/29/10)  These assertions are all subjective truths because of individual opinions about what is mandatory and necessary.  They are truths because the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ is both out of self-interest and for the betterment of others.  If the jar is not replenished it will disappear and become an “empty vessel” of gleaning.  We are all free, is also a truth because it is a choice to take part in the unspoken agreement.  If a customer does not want to put money back into the ‘gleaning-pot’ at some point they forfeit their freedom of choice for gleaning coins.  In the film, Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse, the portrayal of a second life is evermore present throughout the film.  The art created from found/gleaned objects and materials for art and personal use is exactly the pursuit of giving objects a second life.  The aforementioned coffee cup turned ‘gleaning-pot’ is the most accurate example of second life whilst the pennies and other various currency deposited into it are also attaining a second life.  It must be clarified that the money never does lose its given legal value but it does potentially, lose its nostalgic value.  If the ‘giver’ does not see value in the excess change then he or she has no value for the coin and it is then useless; especially if they are carrying it around in their pocket.  The value is lost.  But once it is put in the ‘gleaning-pot’, it garners and accumulates wealth.  Just as the gleaned objects in the movie for art garner wealth and purpose.  The original objects are discarded and are considered useless but on the ground, in the trash, or in the possession of someone else, they become wealthy and rich with importance.  As such, second, third, fourth lives are now given and the objects are reborn into society.

The ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ arrangement provides a unique ethical situation for the act of gleaning.  An unspoken ethical agreement is established and well entrenched in the gleaning system.  Furthermore, trust, generosity, and collective responsibility are all aspects of the unique ethical situation of penny gleaning and providing a second life.  Trust is needed because without it the system implodes and cannot survive.  If people merely take and take and take without returning the treasures they glean, there will not be any treasures left eventually.  In addition, in my experiment I noticed there is more taking than there is giving back by some persons, because it is easier and less taxing.  The unspoken trust that is bestowed upon coffee klatch customers is also contingent on generosity.  Generosity fuels the ‘gleaning-pot’ not only for the sake of keeping a cycle and circulatory system afloat; it also keeps the cut in half coffee cup alive.  I would like to reiterate that the ‘gleaning-pot’ is not always a re-used coffee cup.  At Starbucks a dish was being used during my visit last week but for all intensive purposes I will continue to refer to it as a coffee cup because that was the type of container for the majority of the ‘experiment’.  Without generosity, the coffee cups lose their second life.  Through these acts of generosity, a collective responsibility is also established, and through which an unspoken bond.  The responsibility cannot fall on the shoulders of only a few individuals, it is reliant on all persons that have and do take part in gleaning to satisfy their caffeine cravings.  This collective responsibility in turn, only exists with trust as the foremost important attribute.  Therefore the unique ethical situation comes full circle because the three aforementioned facets are all inter and co-dependent, thus making the ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ situation a uniquely ethical establishment.

In conclusion, the notion of a second life is rampant in all facets of life and society, in particular to the caffeine addictions students take part in.  The ‘take-a-penny, leave-a-penny’ agreement relies on trust, generosity, and a collective responsibility.  It also not only gives second life to the proverbial pennies, but also to the containers used for the gleaning.  The cut in half coffee cups are transformed into ‘gleaning-pots’ and are fulfilling a new life.  Arguably they are still holding an object with the purpose of extraction at the holder’s behest, but they are not being used for drinking.  The second life of objects is one of the most unique topics and as a result, can be applied to all objects in society and can continue to cycle through until the object has been reduced to nothing.  The cut in half coffee cups at coffee klatch counters are there for us to use, but within reason.  They promote gleaning in a unique fashion and bring all persons together, whether they be family, friends, or enemies and promote sharing and a second life for all objects.  Whether they have an assigned value or an existential one.  The ‘experiment’ I conducted made me realise the hesitation that can occur during the giving and receiving of gifts and promoted the giving of gifts without realisation.

Melky Cabrera: Staring at Destiny

In Major League Baseball the past couple of days there has been a lot of talk about the Toronto Blue Jays and their recent acquisitions and corral of talent.  At the forefront of this is the 12 player trade with the Miami Marlins.  The Blue Jays acquire Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio; and going to the Marlins are Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSciafani.  Not long after the news of the trade broke, there were reports that the Blue Jays had gone one step further to securing themselves as a formidable team in the Majors.  The Toronto Blue Jays had engaged in talks with All-Star Melky Cabrera.  This would usually be big news merely because of his credentials and  stats as one of the most formidable hitters in baseball, but this signing has taken an extra stride because of his stellar 2012 season marred by a positive test for heightened testosterone levels.

Melky Cabrera was batting a League best .346 AVG and was on pace to win a batting title.  Once his positive test came through to the media his career and character were linked to a long list of players that have tarnished baseball history; Jose Canseco, Eric Gagne, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez to name only a few.  There are numerous players that have been rumoured and questioned about steroid use, but do they deserve a second chance for their wrong doings?  The Toronto Blue Jays seemingly believe in second chances and awarded Cabrera a 2 year $16 Million contract.  The addition of Cabrera fills the void in Left Field in terms of defence and hitting prowess while providing speed and base stealing depth.  It gives a lot more flexibility to use super speedster Rajai Davis as a pinch runner for any of the outfielders when the game is on the line.  But what is to be made of Cabrera’s 50 game suspension for his positive steroid test?  What if he is not the hitter that fans in San Francisco adored?

As a Blue Jays fan I am excited about the new arrivals from Miami and the signing of Melky Cabrera.  He does deserve a second chance.  He owned up to his mistake, accepted and served his suspension, but now it is time to prove his worth.  If he can be Melky Cabrera, .346 AVG, without steroids, he is one of the best hitters in the game today; but if he tests positive again, he will be regarded as a wolf in sheep’s clothing for the remainder of his career.  If Cabrera stays clean and is truly committed to re-inventing himself, he should reward the Blue Jays once his 2 year contract is up and show loyalty to a club that took a chance on him and a fan base that was willing to give him a second chance.  Without him they are a contending team thanks to recent acquisitions and already established talent, but with him they are formidable and staring destiny in the eye.


Post Secondary vs Work Experience

The careers that recent graduates pursue are in demand of experience, but where can they find it?  What is experience?  Experience is “actual observation of or practical acquaintance with facts or events; knowledge resulting from this whence experienced.”  

During my studies at the University of Guelph, I amassed a wealth of experience via papers and presentations, varying in length, subject, and degree of difficulty.  It is my experience that post-secondary education is overlooked in the work force because of a perceived lack of knowledge and practical experience.  Writing for a variety of professors gives students a number of actual and practical acquaintances with facts in order to learn and improve upon their skills.  This is similar to having a number of different bosses, managers, and superiors with a company in the working world.  There are a limited number of chances that a student gets to impress their professor/boss.  A typical class that runs for four months has merely two to three opportunities to impress and prove oneself through written or oral presentations.  Discussion and presentation assignments in class are similar to that of a presentation in a boardroom.  There is pressure to impress one’s superiors and colleagues; as well as demonstrate research, written, summary, and language skills.  All of these are tested and perfected by students in the university setting on a daily basis.  During my history undergraduate I was able to learn how to apply these skills, particularly research, written, and summary, which I believe, are valued experiences that are overlooked by potential employers.  Similarly, during my philosophy degree I, and many other classmates, honed language skills during debates.  We were required to not only research and understand complex and difficult texts, but also to extrapolate arguments and re-apply them to contemporary scenarios. 

All of these are invaluable experiences and assets that are at the basis of undergraduate degrees and appear to be overlooked in the work place.  In summary the skills I described are helpful in blue and white-collar careers and are not merely attributed to college graduates.  University graduates offer a high degree of experience that is overlooked because of their perceived lack of business world experience.

Experience from school does not compare to the experiences that the business world can offer, however it is an important pre-cursor that can be overlooked.  Professors are aids for students, however this characteristic has not been true to form in many schools.  The professor in many institutes of higher learning has become a demanding career choice that focuses on research and published works rather than concentrating energy on students.  In effect, this new approach is forcing students to improve their individual work ethic. The directives that a professor assigns are increasingly ambiguous.  A student is given a word approximation (+/-10%) and the criterion follows the main subject of the course.  Subsequently, scholars have free range and must use judgement in choosing appropriate topics for papers and assignments with minimal supervision.  This is valuable because students can learn to work independently and effectively without a superior’s fixed gaze.

Stefen Hakim

Gaza 2012

The month of November has been a telling scene of destruction and loss of life that is not exclusive to the Gaza strip.  The humanitarian crisis that has been boiling for years is getting a great deal of notice.  As the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) makes continuing air raids with F16s into the Gaza strip I beg to question the commitment of the United Nations and the United States to keeping the peace in the Middle East.  International news agencies such as CNN are continuously questioning senior Israeli officials about the possibility of an invasion by the reported 75,000 reservists called upon by the IDF.  If these news agencies are legitimately concerned enough about questioning an invasion by Israel, why do governments and news broadcasters continue to defend Israeli attacks?  The attacks themselves are considered and deemed defence mechanisms by the IDF, however, I do not believe this can be determined after a certain extent.  What purpose does a ground invasion serve?  A government that is willing to call upon reservist troops to attack an elected government is begging to question its commitment to peace.  Hamas has had a tempestuous history in the Middle East, but it is an elected government.  Israel claims that Hamas’ military department is a terrorist hive; but is the IDF not a military component of an elected Israeli government?  I would argue that there is no difference between the military section of Hamas and the IDF, except for military power and political backing.  Democracy cannot be achieved if governments are not willing to accept their elected officials.  It is as if Canada were not to recognize the Obama Administration because of the increase in drone missions.  There cannot be a peaceful course of action in the Middle East unless Israel and other governments are willing to acknowledge that Hamas is an elected government via democracy, regardless of their aggressive nature towards Israel.  To assassinate Hamas officials and bomb their buildings is a criminal act, and Hamas is also at fault, but they acknowledge and recognize the Israeli government, which is the start to a peaceful dialogue and solution.  The death toll has increased dramatically and there is no reason for the IDF to advance into the Gaza Strip.  There have been 3 Israeli deaths, and 41 Palestinian deaths according to the BBC.  Regardless of their status’ as soldiers or civilians the catastrophic number is increasing faster than the sun can rise and set.  Hamas rockets have been numerous and inaccurate.  Is a 3:41 ratio exemplary from a government that is preaching the need for peace?  When will the international community step up and stand agains the atrocities that are occurring?  The humanitarian dilemma is another issue that is worsening as the days carry on.  Medical supplies and humanitarian aid are at a stall not only because of the control that the Israeli government has at the border crossings into Gaza but also from the blockade along the Mediterranean Sea.  This article is not intended to lambast only Israel for its policies but to promote awareness about the inequality that is causing a fissure between Palestinians and Israelis.  The military action must cease and recognition of elected parties must start in order to have a diplomatic solution and minimize the loss of life on both sides of the border.

Stefen Hakim