#Post 8 – Aaron Pellish

I think the lectures that were most interesting were one’s that spoke on personal experience with a region or group of people that allowed me to gain appreciation and insight for a particular region. So the two lectures that I distinctly remember being very interesting were the lecture from the guy who lived with the native tribe in Canada and the two girls who are from Nigeria and spoke on their culture and traditions (I’m sorry, but I am not very good at remembering names and for some reason I forgot to write them down).

I think the guy who lived with the native tribe was really interesting because he was able to make explicit unifying beliefs and core tenants of that particular native tribe that informed various elements of the culture. Obviously, it is incredibly hard for an outsider to infiltrate any type of community and learn enough about them to identify that community’s core values and connect them to that community’s rituals and traditions. But I would imagine that it is especially hard to do that as a white American entering a Native American community given the history between those two groups of people. I also really appreciated his enthusiasm for the topic. He was really passionate about what he was talking about, and that helped me engage with the issue more. Plus, I remember him being very forthright in his discussion of that tribe, specifically regarding the idea that not everybody in the tribe thought he was honest or was welcoming to him. I think that sort of nuance helps bring credibility to his research and grounds his discussion in some level of reality, and because if felt like a real and honest discussion, it made the conversation much more interesting.

I also really enjoyed the discussion held by the two study abroad students from Nigeria. I think they had really interesting things to say about Nigerian culture. Nigerian culture is something that I am personally becoming more and more interested in, and so it was nice to hear them explore, for example, Nigerian fashion or Nigerian food. Plus, I’m also becoming very interested in speech patterns and accents, and so I am not ashamed to admit that I was enraptured by their accents and speaking styles the entire time. Maybe that was not the most educational part of their lecture, but for me it was incredibly informative and it entertained my curiosity greatly.

In researching my country, I was able to learn more about the climate of French politics and government. Specifically, I was able to understand why the French government and French political figures have a reputation for being hardline and uncompromising. For example, I learned about how the French government sent spies to blow up the Greenpeace main sea vessel, the Rainbow Warrior, in order to prevent them from protesting a nuclear test that they were conducting. I think behavior like that was a revelation to me, and I think it epitomized the way the French government handles its affairs both domestically and internationally.


Post #7 – Aaron Pellish

Regional Sex Trafficking

In France, sex trafficking and sex slavery is a significant issue. To be honest, it’s a much bigger issue than I thought it would be. But that’s the nature of sex slavery and human trafficking; it’s always a bigger problem then we realize because it operates in the shadows of our society. The French government estimates that there are at least 18,000 women in the nation’s commercial sex industry, and that the majority of those women have most likely been forced into prostitution. France also has influence in several international territories, including incredibly impoverished states like French Guiana and Haiti. This begs a series of questions about the responsibility of France to stop these human rights violations.

In its Trafficking in Person Report from 2010, The United States government categorized France as a Tier 1 nation (the highest tier) when it comes to enforcing standards against human trafficking. Countries in Tier 1 are “countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.” Those minimum standards, which were set in 2000, state that governments should do four basic things to encourage the elimination of human trafficking. They should 1) prohibit severe forms of trafficking and punish such acts 2) should severely punish those who force people into sex industry, either by force, coercion, rape, kidnapping or violence 3) should punish sex trafficking with sufficient punishments so as to deter sex trafficking and reflect the heinous nature of the crime, and 4) should make serious and sustained efforts to eliminate severe forms of trafficking. Based on this standard, the United States feels that France is fulfilling its governmental obligation to prevent sex trafficking. But of course, these preventions are primarily defined in terms of a government’s penal code, rather than it’s policies or trade politics with nations who have reputations for trafficking women. But apparently, this goes beyond the minimum expectation for a government.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

The most obvious of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which pertains to human trafficking, and sex trafficking particular, is the goal of gender equality, which calls for the elimination of all harmful practices towards women. It cites child marriage, early marriage, forced marriage and female genital mutilation as its examples, but obviously sex trafficking falls into this category as well. And the argument for nations to respect the health and humanity of women is fairly strong. The UN argues that enacting gender equality “will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”

I think the quickest way for underdeveloped countries that suffer from high levels of human trafficking need to enact the penal code oriented policies that were put forth by the TVPA. Simply by having governments and legal systems that harshly punish human trafficking all over the world, not just in the West, I think our world will take a big step forward towards eliminating human trafficking in our society.

I think the UN Sustainable Development Goal which will most quickly address the problem with many government’ penal codes is the goal to Promote Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies. Many of the targets in this goal refer to ending corruption in government and creating transparency in public institutions. I think by doing that, it will force some third-world governments that are plagued by corruption and allowed to rule with opaque autonomy to reshape its laws and penal codes to work for the people, not against them, and I think that will ultimately help reduce the level of human trafficking in our society.

Post #6 – Aaron Pellish

Linda Polman’s The Crisis Caravan deals in many complicated ethical issues, but it mostly attempts to accomplish one thing. The book’s principal concern is to format a critical understanding of aid organizations and humanitarian aid in order to examine how humanitarian aid can solve its big problems. She goes on to identify these problems with a great deal of expertise and detail, and demonstrates the problems of non-government organizations in foreign countries and how deeply complicated and well-rooted those problems are.

Among the problems she identified is the clashing between non-government organizations and international non-government organizations that often leads to competitions between the aid groups over who can help the most people. The root of this problem comes from the fact that many organizations see proportional increases in their funding based on the number of people they can claim to have distributed aid to, and that leads to organizations inflating their own statistics to help get more donations and continue to operate in a given region. Polman argues, I wholeheartedly agree, that aid organizations with the goal of helping people in need should not be forced to use their support and aid in the political game of fundraising and organizational pride. Instead, more organizations should be collaborating and working together to help solve the problems in the best ways possible.

Polman also discusses deeply the political problems with an NGO claiming that they are neutral and intend to give aid to whoever needs it. This can lead to a chain reaction of different events which compromise the organizations neutrality and, in some cases, even prolong the humanitarian crisis that the organization is trying to prevent. Polman discussed cases where NGOs gave supplies to the antagonists of a conflict, which helped them to commit further atrocities. Obviously this is a cut and dry example of where NGO politics turns chaotic. But she also discussed how donations are not appropriately distributed to the people who need them. She suggests that less than 10 percent of every dollar donated gets to the people for whom the money was intended. The money can sometimes be siphoned off to local militias, which go on to do things and act on beliefs which the NGO may not condone. In these cases, the NGO gets put in a tough situation, because they are forced to either continue giving aid to a militia who can go on and do whatever they please with the supplies, or they are forced to drop their veil of impartiality and make ethical distinctions about who gets supplies and who doesn’t. Polman contends that the most ethical decision is to drop any claims of impartiality because it ends up creating more grave ethical dilemmas that could be avoided if NGOs gave supplies based on who deserved them.

All of the above arguments are why Polman writes at the end of her book that “Aid organizations are businesses dress up like Mother Teresa.” Admittedly, I think this is an overly critical statement and a generalization, but she makes a strong point in this comparison. She exposes the gap between how an aid organization actually functions and the purpose it claims to serve. Many aid organizations claim to be pure-hearted, sanctimonious organizations that use their money for good as a combatant of evil. But in reality, aid organizations, especially large ones, must make logistical and practical decisions about how they allocate resources, and sometimes those decisions end up benefiting the organization while hurting the people they claim to help. And when an organization does that, it should be criticized more freely.

And that, Polman argues, is the role of journalists. She says that journalism must be unafraid to expose unethical humanitarian aid organizations, just as they would any unethical government organization, because that criticism will encourage NGOs to evolve, improve their resource distribution and cut out any unethical policies. Currently, Polman believes that journalists reflexively avoid questioning the work of aid agencies, and it ultimately hinders both the journalists’ and the NGOs’ credibility. She also calls on the public to be more demanding and transparent of aid organizations, and she calls on governments around the world to assist in creating infrastructures that NGOs can safely operate in so that the NGOs do not have to do it themselves in places where they otherwise would have to.

Post #5 – Aaron Pellish

Europe is an interesting example of how to deal with environmental regulations and human rights. France, for example, only has so much wiggle room with which to independently pursue actions that would advance environmental issues and human rights because France is a member of several international organizations which regulate and mediate the ways those actions take form. The European Union has certain benchmarks for energy consumption that each member state must meet, and there is not a lot of room to work outside of that. The United Nations’ chief cause is protecting the human rights of every person in the world and prosecuting those who disobey human rights, and France, as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is beholden to the constrictions of UN regulation. So on one hand, France does play a role in dealing with those issues. But on the other hand, France’s role in those issues extends only as far as larger international organizations will allow it.

There is a specific relationship between climate change and human rights that both Elizabeth Lindsay and Sheila Watt-Cloutier mentioned in their TEDTalk and essay respectively. There are many communities in the world which have heightened relationships with the environment. More than just superficially, these communities depend on the environment for their culture, their food, their water, their identity, sometimes their religion, but most importantly their human identity. And when changes in the climate change the landscape or environment in substantial ways, it affects the identity of these people, it affects their heritage, and it threatens to endanger them. As I said in my post last week, I think the idea of connecting environmental threats to personal and cultural erasure of heritage is a very clever persuasive technique, and it works very well on ordinary people who appreciate the importance of heritage in one’s personal identity. But I think that this persuasive technique has ceiling on its effectiveness, and it is unlikely to change the way we act as a society, because it is unlikely to sway the hearts and minds of governments and corporations who are motivated by factors and priorities which have nothing to do with the culture and heritage of minority populations. We’ve seen governments and corporations ignore these pleas for representation from minority populations be willfully ignored in the past, so there is no reason to assume it will work yet again.

In “Beyond Eurocentrism,” Farish Noor talks about the relationship between Western ideology and the various ideologies of the rest of the world and argues that the separation of those ideologies is detrimental to our ability to coexist peacefully in a globalized society. Noor defines eurocentrism as “the emerging perception within the European cultural, historical experience of European identity as good and all other forms as less good or less advanced.” In going beyond eurocentrism, Noor implores Western society to shed this form of elitism, embrace the ideologies of the non-Western world and incorporate them into Western society in order to have a greater empathy and cultural understanding of non-Western nations which are otherwise treated as unsafe, un-advanced, and exotic.

Post #4 – Aaron Pellish

After reading the essay from Sheila Watt-Cloutier about how climate change is affecting her home, I was impressed by how she was able to use her own situation to shift the ideas of climate change from abstract concepts and overwhelming problems like global warming and waste management into one’s of humanity and compassion. Frankly, I thought it was an incredibly clever argumentative tool. And I do think, aside from Watt-Cloutier’s arguments, that we have an obligation to take care of our planet. But I don’t think that her argument could ever move the needle politically or globally because it doesn’t shift the conversation around climate change to a place that has merited more action or attention in the past.

The wit in Watt-Cloutier’s essay comes from the fact that she is able use her own plight and the plight of her people as a way to reimagine climate change as an issue involving people rather than science. When climate change is discussed, it is frequently done so in terms of the lifespan of the earth or the amount of money it could save us over time to take care of our planet. On a personal level, these arguments are generally pretty effective, but on a corporate and governmental level, these arguments are much less effective, because governments and corporations are inherently short-sided and are structurally motivated to think in short time frames, whether it be the time frame between elections or the time frame between contract negotiations. Watt-Cloutier wants us to think less about time and more about people, and she argues that governments will do more to fight human rights violations because they so loudly proclaim the importance of human rights. But corporations have historically been negligent of human rights, so that argument will not effect their actions. And with governments, Watt-Cloutier is essentially calling their bluff. If they were to ignore this human rights violation, nothing would happen and there would be no consequences because the same thing has happened before.

In fact, this ties into one particular episode in French governmental history that I think undermines what Watt-Cloutier is trying to argue. In 1985, the DGSE (the French foreign intelligence service, the French CIA) organized an operation that led to the bombing of Greenpeace’s flagship vessel, the Rainbow Warrior. Greenpeace was planning on protesting at the site of a French nuclear trial. They had agents infiltrate the Greenpeace offices in Auckland, New Zealand, and scout the ship. Then they sent in two agents to place a pair of bombs on the boat, which were designed to sink the boat without hurting any one. However, one photographer on board was killed during the second explosion. New Zealand investigators were quickly able to identify that the French were involved in the attack, leading to the prosecution of two of the agents and the resignation of Charles Hernu, the French Defense Minister at the time.

I think this incident proves a couple of things. First, that France has a shaky history regarding the incorporation and acceptance of environmental advocacy groups. Second, there is a track record of governments ignoring both environmental and human rights concerns, even in the West, if it means doing things the way they want to do them. And so, while I am impressed with Watt-Cloutier’s argument, I am also very jaded towards the likelihood of its effectiveness.

Post #3 – Aaron Pellish

Nationalism is a social movement that exists in every type of nation. It is a rise in prideful sentiment towards one’s own country. Generally, it is weaponized to counteract the fears that normally arise during the globalization and cultural integration of a country. In France, it famously played out during the French Revolution and during the Napoleonic era, where French citizens felt entitled to certain resources and structural rights as French people. Nationalism worked against them in World War II, when the nationalistic Nazi party conquered France for a few years before being defeated in 1945. Obviously, nationalism can be beneficial, in the case of the French Revolution, which helped liberate a people from monarchy and establish a sense of national pride in the country. But the direct consequence of that nationalism was the Reign of Terror, which used nationalism to justify the unjust killings of many honest French people. In this sense, nationalism is a very fickle social and political phenomenon.

In the current age of globalization and interconnected economies, Zakaria warns that nationalism can interfere with the peaceful cooperation of nations. In a sense, a portion of the beginning of Zakaria’s “Post-American World” frames nationalism as a pesky form of governmental entitlement. He talks about how newly strong nations are itching to receive recognition and respect from established powers, and that urgency to be recognized for greatness could cause geopolitical friction which could further impede the already messy business of international governmental cooperation.

In France, a good example of this was when the French people voted against adopting the European Union constitution in 2005. The “Non” vote has since been viewed as a pushback to the idea of losing French identity, which is rooted in the principal values of nationalism. French people wanted France to maintain as much of its autonomy as an indicator of their belief in France as a country and as an idea. Zakaria also alludes to this idea of nationalism-as-protest in the second assigned reading from “Post-American World,” when he discusses clothing. He mentions that Gandhi insisted upon wearing traditional clothes as a revolt against British tariffs and British colonization of India. In these two incidents, nationalism was yielded peacefully and honestly. It becomes much more problematic, however, when that nationalism is defined by the elimination of other nations, which is something that France’s National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen, has implicitly and explicitly endorsed to great acclaim among some French residents.

Inequality plays a huge role in France. Social inequality and economic inequality are often overlapped, leading to the systematic marginalization of certain groups of people. In many cases these people tend to be black Muslims. Here’s an article from the New Yorker in which the author speaks to residents of poor neighborhoods outside of Paris who are turned down from jobs because they have an address in a poor neighborhood and a Muslim name on their application. So this type of inequality exists in France, and it is very much a large issue. The problem is that the National Front party is gaining popularity in France, and they, along with other popular right-wing parties in France, are either blind to these inequalities or actively working towards widening those inequalities, which creates an incredibly tricky situation for marginalized poor Muslims in France. As the New Yorker article points out, some of those Muslims turn to extreme Islam because they have no other outlets, which is an incredibly tragedy on behalf of the French government.

Post #2 – Aaron Pellish

In France, the national language is French. As of today, about 90 percent of French residents speak French, and it’s the second most popular language in the world due to France’s history of colonization in Africa and the West Indies. In total, there are 25 languages spoken in France, according to a report from ethnologue.com.

French citizens advocating against anti-Semitism

French citizens advocating against anti-Semitism

Of those languages, there are two extinct languages. They are Zarphatic, a regional language popular in the Alsace and Lorraine regions commonly spoken among French Jews, and Shuadit, a regional language in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region that was also used primarily among French Jews of that region. This strikes me as being indicative of a harsh and unfriendly culture towards Jews in France, which can be confirmed by a history of anti-Semitism in France that is punctuated most famously by the Dreyfus Affair and the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in which the attackers ran into a kosher grocery store and began attacking people before they were captured. It is interesting to see this particular element of cultural history manifest itself in the language history of France.

Of the 25 languages spoken in France, five are languages that have been nationalized in another country. Those are Greek, Italian, Luxembourgish, Portuguese and Spanish. This is significant because it indicates how intermixed the European cultures have become since the opening of the Schengen region in the 1990s. This doesn’t even account for immigrant languages spoken in France, such as English, German, Arabic, or any others. The fact that these languages are credited as being natively spoken in France says a lot about what it means to be a native of a European nation in the 21st century.

Former French Minister of Education Jack Lang

Former French Minister of Education Jack Lang

In 2001, French Minister of Education admitted in a speech that the French government had, for more than two centuries, used political authority to repress the influence of regional languages. He also announced that he would introduce bilingual education into French public schools. I could understand the problems that the French government thought the regional languages might pose. I think they believed that regional languages would create regionalism in the place of nationalism in France, which would undermine the political authority of the national government. However, it remains incredibly problematic for a government to intentionally engage in the erasure of the culture of a people, as is evidenced by the erasure of Judeo-French languages.

The UN Security Council gathers around a table.

The UN Security Council gathers around a table.

France has membership in the United Nations. In fact, it is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and French is one of the official languages of the UN. It was a charter member of the UN and has maintained its membership ever since.

France was the first ever country to borrow from the International Monetary Fund. France has been involved in the IMF since its inception in 1945. It currently holds one of 24 seats on the IMF Executive Board, and is one of eight nations to be directly and solely represented on the Executive Board.

France has been a member of the World Trade Organization since its inception in 1995. As part of an agreement between the WTO and the European Union, all nations that gain membership in the EU also gain membership in WTO. This gives France dual representation through its own delegation and its representation as a member of the EU.

Post #1 – Aaron Pellish

This semester, I will be blogging about France, one of the most populous and politically important nations in Europe. As many people are aware, France is at the center of a global crisis. In 2015, Paris was the unfortunate victim of two major terrorist attacks. The perpetrators of those attacks have identified themselves as Islamic extremists, and in some cases were immigrants from other, more radicalized nations. Both attacks have instigated a large debate among Western nations on immigration, national security and civil liberty in a fully globalized society. With that in mind, I am excited to have the opportunity to explore these issues on this blog over the course of this semester.

And yet, while I am transfixed by the socio-religious tensions among French Muslims, French Jews and French Christians, I am also curious about the other elements of French life, French politics and French culture that are shaping and sculpting France. I want to learn about the under-reported forces affecting this nation that have made it what it is today and that will help shape what France will become. Hopefully, I will be able to discover something new about one of the most talked-about countries in the world.

One of the news sources of record in France is called Le Monde. It’s among the leading French-language newspapers in the world, and lists the New York Times, the Guardian and the Financial Times as its competitors for the most respected newspaper in the world. It was founded in 1944 after the Nazis were driven out of France and General Charles de Gaulle requested that a new, wholesomely French newspaper be created to help reunite the people.

As I am writing this, the lead story on Le Monde’s website is a story about the redistricting of Paris’ famous arrondissements. An “arrondissement” is a municipal neighborhood that allows cities like Paris, Lyon and Marseille to institute representative democracy on a local level. Each arrondissement has its own mayor, and the mayors of the 20 arrondissements vote for the mayor of Paris on behalf of their arrondissement. According to the article, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, proposed a reform of the organization of Paris’ arrondissements to unify the four most centrally located arrondissements of Paris into one, large arrondissement, which would reduce the number of municipalities in Paris to 17. The reformation would also give more authority to borough mayors.


Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo

The justification for this change, as cited in the article, is that the redistricting will create a “more democratic representation” of Parisians. Theoretically, this will occur by limiting the voting power of the wealthiest Parisians who probably live on the Right Bank within the four arrondissements in question. By assigning the 103,000 residents of those four neighborhoods as one municipality instead of four, it will decrease the representation of those 103,000 residents by pooling their voting power. This decision aligns with the beliefs of Mayor Hidalgo’s Socialist party. This reform would also make it harder to distribute an inordinate share of city resources to the same 103,000 residents when compared to, for example, arrondissement 15, which has 203,000 residents but would receive a quarter of the resources that the 103,000 residents of districts 1,2,3 and 4.  In the article, Hidalgo is quoted as saying that of the four arrondissements, two are Socialist, one is ran by the French green party and one is ran by the Republicans. This quote suggests that the redistricting is an apolitical decision. But I suspect that, is it is with nearly all nations, a decision made by a politician almost certainly has some political agenda behind it, and I believe that this one will have no exception.

In other news, several French residents are protesting the state of emergency that Paris has been operating under since the November 13th attacks. In the article, the journalist cites a young woman who says that she believes the Constitution is being disobeyed. The protestors also criticized the recently announced policy to revoke the citizenship of any French citizen who is charged and convicted of terrorist activities. This policy led to the resignation of Christiane Taubira, who was the Minister of Justice until this past Wednesday when she resigned, seemingly in protest of the new policy on terrorism convictions.  There seems to be a lot of tension regarding the policies and protocols surrounding the fear of terrorism and Islamophobia in France. It will be interesting to continue monitoring these tensions throughout the next few months.