27 October 2016   1 comment

Steven Cook has written an essay for The Atlantic which discusses one of the fundamental assumptions of Liberalism:  that there are universal human rights.  He poses the issue in a very interesting way by asking the question “How Should Culture Affect Foreign Policy?”  Some of Cook’s insights are genuinely controversial:

“Maybe Egyptians, for example, have not been able to carry out economic reforms hatched in Washington effectively because those reforms undermine a sense of communal solidarity and a large, patriarchal Arab state, which seem linked to an Egyptian cultural milieu that valorizes these things.”

Yet the question deserves an answer.  Perhaps the failures of American foreign policy in various areas  of the world are due to an unwillingness to modify or adapt central assumptions of liberal thought to local conditions.  But how far should these principles be bent?

The Living Planet assessment, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the World Wildlife Federation, has found that global wildlife populations have declined by 58% over the last 40 years. According to the BBC:

“The researchers conclude that vertebrate populations are declining by an average of 2% each year, and warn that if nothing is done, wildlife populations could fall by 67% (below 1970 levels) by the end of the decade.”

One should not put too much stock in the numbers themselves.  While there is broad agreement that wildlife populations are declining, the difficulties in collecting accurate information are formidable.  The trend, however, is clear.

Pussy Riot is a Russian punk rock band that takes great delight in preforming in ways that challenges the powers that be.  The members of the band performed  “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow in 2012 and two members of the punk band spent 21 months in jail charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”. They have now released a music video entitled “Vagina” as a slap against Donald Trump.   It is unquestionably intended to offend so I would not recommend the video to anyone with reasonable sensibilities.  But art is a potent expression of many parts of society that are typically voiceless, so an offensive voice is sometimes better than silence.

 

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Posted October 27, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

One response to “27 October 2016

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  1. The Atlantic article is so critical that it almost sounds like an article from an US opponent’s propaganda. The author pointed out an important fact that there exists collision and perhaps conflicts between the US culture and the Middle East culture mainly due to different heritage background. But would there be a way to avoid these collision and conflicts by simply studying the Middle East culture and trying to respect that heritage in constructing reforms? I think there is a more intricate issue. Some ideas between the Western culture and the Middle East culture are inherently contradicting such as the end goal and preferred bonding structure within the society. Would the US be able to accommodate these differences eventually? Or maybe the best the US can do with the extra knowledge of culture differences is no different from what it has realized to be valuable to do already — to provide more humanitarian aid to the reforms in the Middle East in assisting the reform.

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