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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
After reading “Taking the Veil” and viewing the blog “I, Too, am Oxford”, I noticed recurring themes of religious oppression. In “Taking the Veil”, Kramer discusses Djamila Benrehab and her experience with being veiled in France. In particular, the quote “‘made my choice. . . to announce my identity,'” stood out to me because it accentuates that Benrehab chose to wear a veil in accordance with her Islamic faith (Benrehab, 59). Similarly, the second to last photo on the “I, Too, am Oxford” blog caught my attention because in the picture, a Muslim woman is stating “I’m not oppressed,” and “hijab is my choice” (“I, Too, am Oxford”, 2014). This led me to think about ideas of religious oppression in countries that claim to support the right to religious freedom. In France’s case, “unveiling” women was the idea of a majorly Christian society to seemingly “undo” the oppression of women and promote feminism. However, it seems that they did not take into consideration the women themselves that they were unveiling. The same can be said in Oxford’s case, as the woman in the second to last picture reveals that people’s preconceived notions about oppression and the veil do not line up with her personal beliefs. All in all, is it more oppressive to force someone to remove a religious article or symbol and to disregard the meaning behind it? In countries that claim to have religious freedom, why are some religions valued over others? For example, why is wearing a hijab or other covering considered oppressive, while wearing a cross necklace is not? I think these questions are important to ask ourselves to unpack years of religious discrimination. Also, it is important to remember that even if we are not followers of a certain religion, under a political policy that supports religious freedom, we must treat everyone with consideration and respect regardless of their faith or lack thereof.