The Return of No-Man’s Land

While reading the article of The Return of No-Man’s Land I kept thinking about how those people felt during their time in No-Man’s Land. I cannot imagine having to live through this and experience this side of history. I was wondering if you all had any thoughts as to how this people must have felt so we can make a connection to this part of history? Personally, I would feel betrayed and isolated if I were in this situation.

The Prime Minister and Extremism

Throughout the Prime Minister’s speech, he outlines the distinction between Islamic extremism and Islam itself. I think it is very important that he worked to alienate extremism and demonstrated how thinking otherwise fosters Islamophobia. However, in speeches like this, there always seems to be undertones of internal issues that have yet to be addressed. For example, Cameron mentioned that the “real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values” was an indication of partial Islamic extremism (Cameron, web). Even so, near the beginning of his speech, Cameron states that the United Kingdom would continue its support of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. This circles back to the idea that certain foreign countries are predisposed to dislike Western countries that insert themselves, and as we know now, the continued presence in Afghanistan has decimated the economy and civilian life. This is where the speech falls short for me, as Cameron fails to acknowledge that British intervention may foster this “hostility” towards Western values and that it is not, in fact, related to extremism as he had commented. Do you believe that the West has a corrupt interpretation of extremism? Would you say that the West is predisposed to stereotype and combat countries that do not share the same opinions or political ideology? Also, do you think that Cameron’s comment that I previously mentioned has undertones of suppressed Islamophobia, or simply ignorance created by a Western perspective?

Russian personality

After reading Putin Country by Anne Garrels, I was most captivated by how Russians saw themselves. It would appear that part of the integral Russian identity is rooted in this idea of “suffering, pride, and controversy” (Garrels 28). It is a notion that being Russian means to persevere through pain and be tough. In other words only the strong survive and succeed. I find it very interesting how many soldiers mention that they detest the abuse in the military, but regardless would willingly give their life for service. A student mentions how she dislikes rigged elections but “we can’t do anything to change it” (Garrels 108). It’s almost as if pain and unfairness is an expected and accepted part of life. If this is the case in Eastern Europe and Russia, I wonder if it’s justified for America and NATO to interfere? Is it wrong to judge other people’s ways and seek to impose your own so called better values on them?

Identity

Over the course of the book Putin Country, identity is brought up more than a few times. Afterall it had been years since it was last seen as Russia. With this new identity comes a need for many changes around what it meant to be a Russian. The last paragraph of chapter 18 also brings up an analogy of a meteor crash and its similarity to the affects Russia has felt. If the idea that a new Russia is to be found from the ruins of the old, could this just be a long process that they are expecting to happen overnight? Or is it the methods in which the founding of a new identity occurred that are the cause for such unrest.

The Yugoslav States

When reading about this difficult topic, I think it is important to weigh both the political and humanitarian aspects of the breakup of Yugoslavia. In particular, the background section that described the formation of a second Yugoslav state stood out to me. Naimark states that this entity was formed to “resolve the ethnic tensions between the various nations of Yugoslavia” (Naimark, 140). This made me think, in a more general sense, the effectiveness of further separating different ethnic groups and the deep divides that it can cause. In this situation, I think it was extremely necessary due to the severe ethnic cleansing that took place, but, I feel that a separation can have adverse effects in the future. I think that this method works against itself to foster discrimination through increased racism and xenophobia. Do you think (in general) that the answer is to further divide ethnic groups, and in turn, does this marginalize these groups? Can you see how something like this may cause future issues among ethnic groups and contribute to further xenophobia and ethnic hatred?

My Father’s Guilt

While reading My Father’s Guilt, I noticed the author was very descriptive from the first page to the last. On pages 150 to 151 the author describes what their community looked like while Tito was in office, specifically the school classrooms.

I wanted to discuss the authors tone when describing Tito’s portrait versus when describing President Tudjman’s picture.

I also wanted to hear what you all think of the last line in this paragraph ending on page 151…

“… soon he will be swallowed up by oblivion, until the moment when he comes back to trouble us as a reckless ghost.”

Drakulic, 151

The Magic Lantern

While reading the first few pages of The Magic Lantern, a very broad question came to mind. How did these people continue to live through tragedy after tragedy without allowing it to overcome them? In the paragraph that starts with “Everyone, but everyone…” on page 63, it entails that once the wall was torn down people just went about their daily lives but with much more enthusiasm. Personally, I believe that these people were finally given a chance to just breathe and, in some ways, continue the lives they once lived. I think that they wanted their normal lives back so badly and that they would never take it for granted again.

Economics and Communism

Throughout the 20th century in Europe, we have seen many examples of people adhering to communism even after they are presented with its harsh reality. In chapter 11 of Dark Continent, Mazower touches on how the economic benefits of Stalinism stuck around much longer than the political ideology itself. Mazower asserts that the downfall of Stalinism began when “a centralized party and state apparatus ” using mass industrialization and control of “trade, agriculture and consumer goods” sowed unrest (Mazower, 362). To combat this, the Eastern European plan shifted slightly when “the balance of investment” was adjusted “in favour of light industry and improved living standards” (Mazower, 362). This idea made me think about how some people are willing to “turn a blind eye” or “cherry-pick” certain aspects of ideologies or systems when they offer some form of benefit. Do you think the communist model stuck around for so long because of the economic benefits that a minority received even though a majority of people still lived in poverty? Are people more willing to accept an oppressive government that promises economic prosperity at the expense of individual freedoms?

The merits of consumerism

While reading chapter 9 of Mazower’s Dark Continent, the idea of consumerism caught my attention. It would seem that consumerism has encouraged an individualistic perspective throughout Western Europe. “Goods, not gods were what people wanted” (Mazower 302). In other words, people sought to climb the social hierarchy as measured by material wealth. Individual ambitions were placed above any collective group goal. Yet, in adopting a consumerist and individualist agenda, Western European countries are now among the largest economies in the world. Certainly having a better standard of material living than many collectivist countries in Asia and Africa. Some food for thought, is individualism better than collectivism? Or perhaps they are simply different and neither is better than the other.

Bendit

On page 103, Bendit speaks of his view of the unrest his movement would provide. He thinks the unrest is a good thing and allows for man to speak in a free manor. I liked the idea of this because it provided the public to think and get behind something that they truly believe in. But does this plan truly end this way 100% of the time or is some form of anarchy and civil unrest a likely outcome with limited leadership. Would viewpoints end up fighting each other than rallying and unifying behind a singular cause.