Search This Blog

Available Language Options

Friday, March 26, 2010

Everlasting Renaissance

           According to Zora Neale Hurston, an author and anthropologist who was part of the Harlem Renaissance, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I believe it is true. It is a perpetual personal quest. We all have an ongoing secret battle. In the midst of years, our childhood shapes our adulthood, many years are continuous questions, and some years are delightful answers. And we are blessed with unexpected joy and magic.

I always loved the term renaissance. In middle school a rebirth seems so poetic. A conscious effort to be something else seems so brave and daring. In high school renaissance was a necessity because society needs cultural movement, new intellectual pursuits, and artistic development in the diversity. My view on renaissance with my cultural identity was a mix an African, Caribbean, European, and of course African American’s renaissance. At that time, all I knew from the African American Renaissance was coming from James brown, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Michael Jordan, NBA, movies, music and Tupac Amaru Shaku of course! Honestly, it was a burst of questioning and I was devouring books in search of answers.

Life is about creating yourself, it is not about finding yourself.  We are who we are. But we choose what we want to be in life. That is why I believe in life being an everlasting Renaissance. I did read about Buddhist, the Bible, and the Quran. One day, I will read the Torah. A Muslim scholar Mahmoud Ayoub stated that "The goal of true jihad is to attain a harmony between (submission), (faith), and  (righteous living).” And Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, said What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind.”

In my opinion, religions support life as an everlasting renaissance. In my everlasting renaissance, I appreciate the answers not always gracefully but I do. I respect our elders even more because lifestyles have changed but the wisdom from years is still the same. We all strive for high ideals and fight personal struggles. Everlasting Renaissance is a struggle that we all face regardless of religions, beliefs, and origins.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Universal Justice in a Global Community

In Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. states that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In this global community, justice cannot be relative to cultures and societies. Universal justice must value local needs with mixed tribunals.  The “artifice” of justice is a necessity that requires our cooperation. I want to believe that justice comes from our “innate sympathy” to our community. And even if we are social animals we can go beyond a justice for “just us” to justice for all.  

According to Hume, morality principal task is to search for ways to eliminate contradictions in the “passions” of sympathetic persons, which are “aware of their own and fellow’s desires and needs, including emotional needs”. For Hume, the passion is a primitive state without control, or convention. He claims our passions are corrected by sympathy not by “law-discerning reason.” His philosophy is based on desire and beliefs. He dissociates practical reasoning from morality. For Hume, human sentiments reflect our humanity, which determine beneficial actions. "Here therefore REASON instructs us in the several tendencies of actions, and HUMANITY makes a distinction in favor of those which are useful and beneficial."(Hume)Even if reason indicates the probable ends of an action, passions incite people to cooperate to satisfy their own desires and emotional needs. The capacity for sympathy is an anchor for morality because it offers “a general good will” acting with the concern of humanity.(Hume).  Reason according to Hume is the slaves of our passions. He writes “and that reason and sentiment concur in almost all moral determinations and conclusions.” (Hume). For him, justice is a virtue that requires both moral sentiment and reasoning. 

 By examining Hume’s concept of natural and artificial virtues, I will define his theory of utility, and discusses the value of justice as virtue, to demonstrate that his notion of justice is not relative to culture and society.  Artificial virtues are based on social conventions, while natural virtues are instinctively driven from our humane nature. Innate sympathy, friendship, natural affection, public spirit, and compassion are examples of natural virtues. Justice is one example of artificial virtue because it depends on social convention. Society imposes rules of action to which all members adhere given that it is an interested obligation. By writing “In all determinations of morality, this circumstance of public utility is ever principally in view; and wherever disputes arise, either in philosophy or common life, concerning the bounds of duty, the question cannot, by any means, be decided with greater certainty, than by ascertaining, on any side, the true interests of mankind.”(Hume) Hume introduces the concept of “public utility. He defines it as “the true interest of the mankind” to lay down his utilitarian philosophy. The public utility benefits the overall well being of members of a society. He stipulates that justice is a virtue because it serves “public utility”. He mentions that “The use and tendency of that virtue is to procure happiness and security, by preserving order in society.”(Hume) 

  Hume explains that in case of ‘unlimited abundance” justice is inappropriate because there are conflicts about property and necessity.(Hume) Or in case of “extreme benevolence” there is no need for convention to regulate social interactions. “nor would the divisions and barriers of property and obligation have ever been thought of.”(Hume)   The role of justice is to promote happiness and social order in accordance to public utility.  It reiterates his definition of utility and justice by stating that “public utility is the SOLE origin of justice, and that reflections on the beneficial consequences of this virtue are the SOLE foundation of its merit.” (Hume) The rules in Hume’s concept of justice are based on “observance” not on “consent” to obey. Those conventions are progressively established to fit the social interactions. People tend to cooperate in order to progress toward their overall best interest. He gives the example of the language; in all language there is common knowledge of good, used as for general maxims to act morally.  Therefore justice through public utility is natural as well as an artificial virtue because our humane nature leads us to cooperate, and conventions are tools to support justice in order to promote happiness according to utility. Hume claims that justice is an appropriate virtue only among equals; the fate of Native Americans was not based on justice or “even humanity” because Europeans felt superior to them. He writes “The great superiority of civilized Europeans above barbarous Indians, tempted us to imagine ourselves on the same footing with regard to them, and made us throw off all restraints of justice, and even of humanity, in our treatment of them.” (Hume)

Conventions to promote utility such as justice are observed by all members of society regardless there cultures. In the example of language, he demonstrates that “all languages universally express the highest merit, which HUMAN NATURE is capable of attaining.”(Hume) Moreover, Annette Baier in “Hume, The Women’s Moral theorist?” explains that the “Human artifice of justice” could not be constructed without self control and cooperation. Even if it is first selfishly directed, it progressively becomes socially coordinate to benefit everyone. She offers the example of “family cooperativeness and inventive self-interested reason” to promote a mutually beneficial cooperation.(Baier) She asserts that justice is a virtue only among equals that practice self control in the interest of all members of society.
  Hume believes that men desire social virtues. Men believe that these virtues are beneficial. However, justice is the sole virtue that promote “public utility”. Hume uses the term of innate sympathy to shows that this moral sentiment is not determined by artificial virtues such as society or culture. Nevertheless it is socially coordinate to benefit all. Hume succeeds to show that justice is not culturally nor socially relative for the reason that justice instinctively driven by “human nature” which universalize it. Given that the capacity for sympathy anchors morality, Hume's justice is not relative to society because it based on “a general good will” to act with the concern of humanity.(Hume) I believe that Hume's theory of utility lays down an "rule utilitarian" form of utilitarianism. Justice serves social utility, so people observe general maxims to promote the greatest happiness as a collectivity. He clarifies that "The convenience, or rather necessity, which leads to justice is so universal, and everywhere points so much to the same rules, that the habit takes place in all societies; and it is not without some scrutiny, that we are able to ascertain its true origin."(Hume) This argument supports that the necessity rather interest obligation makes justice universal in all societies.

By Aline Diop-Nkunzumwami.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Kirundi-French-English Challenge: Kifrenglish

I decided to learn my native language again! It is Kirundi! My parents told me that I started talking really late and I used to stare at people straight in the eyes without talking. Growing up, languages were not the only barriers, but cultures and customs were  too.As a result, I always look into people eyes to make sure I understand the tone, context, intention, real meaning of the words.It is all about interpretations not translations.

I do not even know which one is native or first or second. I know which one I use, do not use, can read and write or not. Growing up, I had a home language, a school language, and outside language. Depending on situations, language was mostly a tool and a concept. It was often a token of my willingness to learn and exchange.  With time my first became my second. And another one became my first. They all shape my identity in many ways I cannot define but they did. Kirundi is a valley where I belong, French is  a plain where I grew up, English is a woodland where I am growing.

So here is my Kirundi-French-English challenge=Kifrenglish.
I will use learn Kirundi from Betty Cox, and update my progress every two weeks. It will be challenging because I never learn how to write and read in Kirundi. And my French writing is slipping away. And at the end of this challenge I will proudly say that my native is Kirundi, my second is French and third is English. And finally make space for Spanish. I hope to be more cohesive in my multilingualism.

Burundi pictures from Brandon Thiessen. On flickr.BЯДЙDΦЙ.Brandon

Sunday, March 14, 2010

From Dreams to Relativity theory: Albert Einstein

Today it is Albert Einstein's Birthday. 
Even if he was searching for laws that explain more of the universe. He was aware that it is all relative.

My favorite quotes from Albert Einstein:
  • "There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle;you can live as if everything is a miracle.” 
  • "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." 
  • "One cannot help but be in awe [one] contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structures of reality." 
  • "The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our action, Our inner balances and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."

EINSTEIN'S DREAMS Alan Lightman. Warner Books, New York, 1994.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book of the week: "The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin"


The European Dream

Tarcher/Penguin, 2004
The American Dream is becoming ever more elusive. Americans are increasingly overworked, underpaid, squeezed for time, and unsure about their prospects for a better life. One third of all Americans say they no longer even believe in the American Dream. While the American Dream is languishing, says bestselling author Jeremy Rifkin, a new European Dream is capturing the attention and imagination of the world. Twenty-five nations, representing 455 million people, have joined together to create a United States of Europe.

The European Union's GDP now rivals the United States', making it the largest economy in the world. The EU is already the world's leading exporter and largest internal trading market. Moreover, much of Europe enjoys a longer life span and greater literacy, and has less poverty and crime, less blight and sprawl, longer vacations, and shorter commutes to work than we do in the United States. When one considers what makes a people great and what constitutes a better way of life, observes Rifkin, Europe is beginning to surpass America.

More important, Europe has become a giant laboratory for rethinking humanity's future. In many respects, the European Dream is the mirror opposite of the American Dream. While the American Dream emphasizes unrestrained economic growth, personal wealth, and the pursuit of individual self-interest, the European Dream focuses more on sustainable development, quality of life, and the nurturing of community.
We Americans live (and die) by the work ethic and the dictates of efficiency. Europeans place more of a premium on leisure and even idleness. America has always seen itself as a great melting pot. Europeans, instead, prefer to preserve their rich multicultural diversity. We believe in maintaining an unrivaled military presence in the world. Europeans, by contrast, emphasize cooperation and consensus over go-it-alone approaches to foreign policy.

All of this does not suggest that Europe has suddenly become a utopia. Its problems, Rifkin cautions, are complex and its weaknesses are glaringly transparent. And, of course, Europeans' high-mindedness is often riddled with hypocrisy. The point, however, is not whether Europeans are living up to the dream they have for themselves. We have never fully lived up to the American Dream. Rather, what's crucial, notes Rifkin, is that Europe is articulating a bold new vision for the future of humanity that differs in many of its most fundamental aspects from America's.

Rifkin draws on more than twenty years of personal experience working in Europe, where he has advised heads of state and political parties, consulted with Europe's leading companies, and helped spur grassroots environmental and social justice campaigns. The author delves into the history of Europe, from the medieval era to postmodernity, to capture the soul of the new European consciousness.

Two hundred years ago, America's founders created a new dream for humanity that transformed the world. Today, suggests Rifkin, a new generation of Europeans is creating a radical new dream - one better suited to meet the challenges of a globalizing world in the 21st century.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Global Natural disasters, we are all connected.

After the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Katrina’s hurricane, Haiti earthquake, Chile, mudslides and floods all over, we are becoming familiar with natural disasters.  As a child I experienced a cyclone. Cyclones are also referred to as hurricanes or typhoons.We lived high on the island; I could see the ocean agitation. First, I was not scared. I was curious and happy that I missed school due to a high risk of natural disaster!

I remember how the sky slowing changed, from cream to grey, to dark blue, the rain, the wind and the silence in the noise.  The rain and the wind were intense.  My brother and I could tell from our dad’s face this was serious.  Since the night before, our dog was in the house.We knew something might happen because our parents were against having the dog inside. We all took refuge far away from windows, in hallway and bathroom. It was like camping in the house. We had books, snacks, pillows, and blankets. The noise was scary but somewhat relaxing in the comfort of our new shelter. After a while, I wanted to look by the windows.  I took a long pick far away from the window. It was hypnotic. The chaos seemed orchestrated by the heavy rain, wind and swirling. I was scared that we will drown or our house will fly in the cyclone's eye. In spite of the noise and worries, I slept. It is the beauty of being a child. I do not even know if my parents slept that night.

In the morning, it was a quiet regular day. We were blessed, healthy and alive.The sky was blue; the sun was shinning like nothing happen. We had to stay in the house, while our parents went outside to clean up for few hours. In the afternoon we were allowed to go out with them. But we were not allowed to touch anything or eat anything without asking. And while driving, I realized that we survived a natural disaster, the roads were sectioned with fallen trees, broken houses, debris and parts of stuff. We did multiple stops to clear the road. It was a complete disorder.

After few days we went back to school. And after a week we went back to the beach. I never looked at the Ocean the same way. It could be so smooth, warm, relaxing, and so chaotic. After that episode, natural disasters did indicate life and death. In the broken and disorder, flowers and plants were growing, babies being born, life taking his course like nothing happen with sequels and scars.

 Now as a parent, it is my duty to provide shelter and peace of mind. Nowadays children are more connected to the outside world. With the images from Katrina, Haiti, and Chile, they grow fears that we have to appease somehow. And like for fire emergency plans, we are supposed to have few natural disasters plans. Global natural disasters remind us that we are all connected that we wanted it or not! It is one Earth, different natural disasters, same fears, same tears and same blood.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Promise Yourself by Christian D Larson

 Christian D Larson
Your Forces and How to Use Them 1912 

Promise yourself to be strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything 
 and make your optimism come true.
To think only the best, to work only for the best 
 and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others 
as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past 
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself 
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger,
too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fate, Destiny and Dreams.

In literature, I always loved Initiatic tales. It is the next best thing after a great movie. I love to  read about someone else life, with all the interesting details, the philosophical questions about fate and destiny. 

My favorite Initiatic tale is  from Honore de Balzac, Le Père Goriot. I loved that story. I was also tested on that Book at my Oral French Literature exam in High School. And I had an excellent grade thanks to Monsieur De Balzac!! I was so proud because  I could  discuss well about French literature even if it was not my native language and my writing was not flawless. That day  I mastered French in all its subtility and nuances.  

Balzac gives a lot of details about his characters so you can feel their humanity and misery. His work is labeled as a collection on Humane Comedy. It is as painfully as  funny it gets. It is realistic. The story is about an elderly retired man named Jean-Joachim Goriot and a young man named Rastignac. Who moved to Paris from the south of France, then becomes attracted to the upper class. He is a social climber willing to use any means to better his situation. The old man, Goriot is ridiculed and he will end up learning that he has bankrupted himself to support his two well-married daughters.He dies of sadness after a stroke.
Only Rastignac and two maids attend his funeral. It is about social stratification, corruption, family relations and the influence of Paris. In summary, you must come from money or go to Paris to succeed. It all depends on how much you are willing to lose in order to gain, or climb to that upper class.

  At Goriot's funeral, Rastignac realizes that the old Goriot died for nothing. All the pretending and money did not matter. He died and his beloved daughters did not show up after all his sacrifices. Rastignac learns that even if his social status is already established, he is the master of his life and destiny. Goriot's death is the waking up of Rastignac. 

 Paulo Coelho in the Alchemist, beautifully says "the treasure is where the heart belongs". Rastignac's  affection for Goriot did grow more than his desire to succeed. The real treasure was the teaching he received from Goriot's life.To conclude I will quote Paulo Coelho "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true".  We prepare our fate everyday in every actions. Let's not forget that we all are children of the universe and that our dreams are not negotiable.


Related Posts with Thumbnails