Friday, 20 February 2009

a random sampling of things I've gotten away with writing for university credit...

Getting back to the broader scope of topics I like to ramble about...

Sometimes I seriously wonder about the standards we have in Western education systems... as stated, this is a random sampling of stuff I've written (and gotten As on).

The Agony of Ecstasy?
The Exaggeration of the Evils of Rave Culture

My concluding sentence from a criminology paper on the moral panic surrounding ecstasy use during the "War on Drugs" in the 1990s (I got an A+):
Concern about raves and ecstasy use faded into the background as rave culture began to decline in popularity and ecstasy use began to drop. The issue was all but forgotten as politicians, law enforcement officials and the media focussed their attention on the newest war on a noun: the War on Terror.
Oh, and I used the Goo Goo Dolls song 'Big Machine' as the epigraph. I heart the Crim Department.

Assessing the Invasion

Oh, POL 241, how do I love thee, let me count the ways...
1. Taking Intro to International Relations as a summer class (we have full 13 week summer semesters at SFU) when I could write my term paper at the beach = BEST PLAN EVER!
2. Instead of being subjected to a Dutch Canadian Bushophile, I was taught by a PhD candidate doing his dissertation on anarchist involvement of the anti-globalization movement.
3. Scott subtitled all his lectures. ex. Realism was the' Lord of the Flies Edition', War & Conflict week was the 'You Sunk My Battleship! Edition.' My personal favourite was the 'Don't Take Your Guns to Town Edition': International Law and Organization.
4. Then he gave me an A on a paper that included the following:
...Luttwak demonstrates a certain degree of racial prejudice when he claims that Iraqi insurgence is due to "Muslim hostility" rather than the routine rebellion generated by foreign occupation. These prejudices prevent Luttwak from considering that problems might arise [for reasons other than] the inherent inability of the Iraqi people to comprehend Western democracy.
I went on to slam the same author for idiotically ignoring the simple fact that Islamic beliefs encompass politics and that attempting to impose secular democracy on any nation violates their right to political self-determination and their right to function without international interference, which contradicts the single most important tenet of realist doctrine and the backbone of the entire, bloody Westphalian state system.

Global Communications
The Inadvertent Lovechild of Progress and Liberal Market Economics

The fact that I got away with the title is itself hilarious, since the paper was a glorified book review of Ronald Wright's "A Short History of Progress" (DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME READING IT). The paper itself was written in about two hours the morning it was due and included the following:
... at a point in his book where his suggestions as to how we ought to go about achieving these objectives might be reasonably expected, he leaves his readers hanging with the rather baseless assertion that "now is our last chance to get the future right." At this time, he succumbs to the cop-out that he has done his job simply by presenting his case. Nowhere does he provide any advice or set forth any policy suggestions that might help prevent our inevitable spiral into resourceless chaos, instead he seems content to whine and hope that someone will pick up where he has left off and formulate a brilliant plan to get us out of our fate.
The fact that I got away with writing this is shocking. My sentence structure is appalling, my use of colloquialisms is completely unprofessional, and the content is questionable at best... first year... *shudder*

Prestige at Any Cost

This is, quite possibly, the most contemptuous paper I have ever written. Oh, except one (I'll get to that). In a survey course in African history, my paper was about Belgian colonization of the Congo. Some examples...
... Leopold [II of Belgium] was determined to have a colony. He did not really care where the colony was, so long as it existed.

For Leopold (as it is unfair to apply the fanatical desires of one individual to a whole nation), an African colony was a way to overcome the diminutive size and insignificance of his nation and prove his wealth and power.
And yes, I FULLY intended for that to be a thinly veiled jab on Leopold's endowment.

Educating the West about Islam

The most contemptuous paper I have written. The first paper I ever cared about, for the most amazing prof I have ever had. William Cleveland was brilliant. Read his book. The middle east will finally make sense. I swear.
[Pipes'] arrogant assumption that the imposition of American cultural norms will help solve the problem of [Islamic] extremism (and, one must extrapolate, terrorist action) is laughable as it forces Muslims to adhere to a predetermined sociopolitical construct that they did not have a hand in creating and may have no interest in preserving.

[Pipes] cites the "readiness to intimidate and use violence" as one of the many problems with Islamism, conveniently neglecting to mention that this tactic is standard in power struggles and that the United States employed the same tactics to assert their military and economic dominance more than any other nation in the twentieth century.

The following is from a paper I wrote that I was actually pretty proud of at the time. It was on of the half dozen papers I wrote in which I actually felt like I was at liberty to have an original thesis. The first line of a paper entitled "Reinventing Humanity": Lady Justice stands blindfolded with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other.

Yup; it sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? It actually made sense though. I returned to the blind justice motif for the whole paper. I'm actually kind of entertained by the fact that I wrote this. The ideas aren't bad, but the quality of writing is sub-par - when I finally do get my act together and go back to finish my degree, I really hope that taking time off to write for the past year and a bit has some positive effect on the quality of my written work. Frankly, it had better.

Justice has as many interpretations as there are people on the planet simply because we all understand it a little differently, but this does not imply that judicial systems can treat individuals with different standards without serious consequences. Ken Booth states that ideas should not be discriminated against based on origin. In this case, the concept of blind, indiscriminating justice should not be dismissed by non-Western states simply because of its Western roots...

...One problem that Western-style retributive justice systems fail to address is what I believe can be another interpretation of justice’s blindness. Western legal procedure is followed with a certain degree of blindness to the consequences of the legal outcome; familiarity, acceptability and the degree to which Western legal traditions have influenced international legal norms has made it difficult to question the legitimacy of Western legal procedure, especially when these systems generally deliver a great deal of retributive justice. ... When Western parties discuss justice, it is almost exclusively retributive justice to which they refer, disregarding forms of systems of restorative justice as soft, dangerous or ineffectual.
Go back and count the number of times I used the words 'justice' and 'legal.' My head hurts...

On the bureaucratic structure of the United Nations' Peacebuilding Commission:

Considering the risks states take being involved in UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding endeavors, it is only fair that the largest contributors of military or financial resources have a say about how their resources are used and distributed. But this inherently gives those with the most money and the biggest guns the loudest voice...

You can lead a state to peace by dangling the carrot of aid in front of it, but only the state itself can chose to permanently implement peace. This is the highly realist ideal of self-help, but with a twist; instead of seeking self-help due to the paranoid delusion that every other state is maliciously self-seeking, it reflects the drive for responsible self-governance and sovereign control over one’s state.

The sad reality is that considering only current security concerns, economic stability, and political and civil trends will not explain the vast majority of conflicts that arise even in zones where one or more of these factors is a large contributor. As was the case in the Balkans, Rwanda and Cambodia, there are religious, ethnic and historical undertones that cannot be quantified by the strength of a state’s military, GDP or number of women’s rights groups.
This is the result of my being trapped in the ivory tower for a LITTLE too long:
Society is shaped by its legal structure (or lack thereof) and vice versa; in a post-conflict situation the re-creation of justice both conceptually and institutionally can bind people to their society like a prototypical social contract.
And, finally, one sentence that embodies everything I hate about academia:
The very idea of peace conditionality is dependent on realist ideal of sovereign control over instruments of hard power, and presupposes the legitimacy of a state to impose its own prejudices when providing assistance to other nations.
I'm not sure what worries me more: that I wrote it or that I understand it perfectly. Regardless, the following paragraph scare me even more, not because I wrote it or because I understand it, but because I meant it.

Despite the tenacity of competing realist and liberal traditions within the UN, there are still those who believe that it has the capacity to change. Kofi Annan uses as an example “a great American and the first UN official to receive the Nobel Peace Prize,” Ralph Bunche, who he quotes as having said that “the UN has no vested interest in the status quo” and exists “not merely to preserve the peace but also to make change -- even radical change -- possible without violent upheaval. It is this philosophy that must prevail in the twenty-first century if the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission intends to actually build peace. A failure to acknowledge the complexities of the peacebuilding process and the negative effects of applying a narrow Western world view upon states with vastly different capacities and priorities will result in more conflict, not less. A concerted effort must be made to develop the role of conflict prevention in the PBC and to encourage collaborative approaches to rebuilding states. By working with donor and recipient governments as well as NGOs and grassroots civil society organisations to pursue creative new solutions to age-old problems of community reunification, military disarmament, job creation and political balance, the solutions to many problems can be found. Their implementation, however, is dependent on our ability to listen to what states actually need and want rather than what we believe they ought to need or want.

That is about as pretentious as I get though, which is why I'd make a lousy academic. (Except I never really wanted to be an academic; I wanted to work in a more policy-oriented field, but that's beside the point.)

Some days I really do wonder why I'm not still in school though. I miss it... well the academic debate part, and the writing essays part, and the readings part... and then I spend a few hours trying to read about genocide, and I remember why I'm not doing that to myself right now: it's horrifically depressing.

And, on that cheerful note, I bid you all adieu so that I can go read ... about the Cold War. (someone out there is rolling their eyes, I am sure)



Jessclub7 said...

Has the Cold War finished yet?

Some of my law essays are hilarious especially for the less jargon and case heavy modules where I got to wax lyrical on my views on many and varied topics. Most of which I knew very little about. At best.

On a totally random note, I went out for dinner tonight (it's 1.15am my time) and I ate scallops for the first time ever. And I feel the need to share this.

ali said...

Scallops are delightfully delicious.


I was hungry before, and I'm even more hungry now.