Recently in Global North Category

Drone.jpgToday's New York Times story titled "Pakistan Reported to Be Harassing U.S. Diplomats" highlights the hypocrisy of the Pakistani government in accepting U.S. aid and military support while refusing to renew visas of U.S. personnel and subjecting American diplomats to routine vehicle checks. Certainly Pakistan's government doesn't have to accept the billions of dollars the U.S. government is giving it. But there is more to this story.

First of all, the U.S. wrote the book on denying visas for opaque, often senseless reasons.

The State Department has a history of denying visas for political reasons, and should not be surprised when other countries do the same from time to time. (I believe denial of the right to travel is rarely justified, but this is an oft-used tool of U.S. foreign policy.)

Second, the U.S. is unpopular in Pakistan because it bombs Pakistanis using unmanned drones and has this year pressured the Pakistani military to take action that led to societal upheaval and mass suffering. This has had the not unforeseeable consequence of making the current Pakistani government's relationship with the Americans somewhat toxic.

But this is mostly missing from the Times story. Only near the bottom of the article do we get any indication of why Pakistanis might not be grateful for the presence of the Americans in their country:



I'd like to introduce a new feature here called "Musical Monday" - at least until I think of another name. Some of the music I like ties in to migration in one way or another, and I've been wanting to share it more widely. As information, goods, and (sometimes) people flow more freely than ever before across borders, musicians are writing about it.

In remembrance of those who've died in Haiti in recent weeks, and in the hope that those who need help can be reached in time, the first Musical Monday is Arcade Fire's Black Wave / Bad Vibrations. Arcade Fire co-founder Régine Chassagne's family migrated from Haiti to Canada to escape the Duvaliers, like some of my former clients. She has sung about her family's homeland on the band's first album, Funeral, and on last year's Neon Bible. This song is very meaningful to me now that I've gotten to know some Haitians who went through some truly horrific experiences before coming to the U.S.
The BBC Reports. 

The significance of Canada's Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission deserves a lot more attention than I'm giving it in this post.  May this dark period in Canada's recent past be a lesson to all those that think forcefully integrating entire peoples into the majority culture is a good idea in the present. 
It looks like majority world migrants aren't the only ones getting rounded up and shipped back to their countries.  Watch this Real News Network video on a U.S. soldier who deserted to Canada to avoid fighting the War in Iraq, and is now being deported back to the U.S. where he will likely go to prison. (sombrero tip to Renata Avila of Global Voices Guatemala).


In researching a forthcoming post, I stumbled across this remarkable video about rural Kenyans who have gotten the rights from the corporation that owns the Simpsons to produce and sell handmade soapstone carvings of characters on the show.  They receive $6 for each carving, which they use to support and educate their families.  The spokesman from the group is very pleased about the work and the impact it has had on the community. 

But then we find that the carvings can be sold in the UK for ten times that amount, $60 a piece.  Does it really cost $54 to ship a small bust of Homer Simpson from Kenya to Britain?  Perhaps, but I am skeptical.  But I’ll refrain from complaining too loudly since if the project were ended for some reason, the Kenyan artisans would clearly be worse off than they are now. 

As an educated Westerner, objectively I have little to complain about compared to most people in the world.  But when thinking about the trenchant problems people in the Global South face and will likely face for the rest of their lives, lately I’ve been dangerously short on optimism.  It’s just so depressing.  It’s easy to understand why often the first response to such widescale suffering is to pretend that these challenges don’t exist or that they’re primarily unsolvable and of people’s own making. 

So it lifts me up to see people like videoreporter Ruud Elmendorp, who made the piece I’ve embedded here, publicizing daily life in Kenya and elsewhere on his website.  He has some reports on the recent unrest in Kenya.  Check it out

Update: I'm still working on the embed here--sorry to all inconvenienced by the automatic start on the video. I need a tutorial or something ...

Later update: Ok, hopefully it'll work now through YouTube.  Embedding the clip through Typepad proved to be beyond my meager abilities. 

Everything makes sense when I go back to Guatemala.  I've gotten increasingly interested in local politics here in Massachusetts, but going back to Guatemala puts everything in perspective.  While I still have yet to be able to fully articulate it, I think I'm finally starting to get a feel for what matters for the billions of people that inhabit the earth. 

When I put it that way it might seem simple.  But in the world of new media, where it's theoretically possible to make an impact anywhere in the globe, at any time, prioritizing makes the difference between change and keeping things the same. 

It's never been enough to say, "do good", because almost everyone, at least in their mind, feels they are a good person at heart.  It's certainly not enough to say all each of us needs to do is help a few other people, because those with the privilege to do so are too few and those that need help and support are too many.  The question has always been when and how to better the world, and the answers certainly aren't always and however.  That leads to burnout. 

I think my mind is finally grasping the necessary nuance that has always allowed me to prioritize between issues like Boston's rat problem or a "virus of potholes", and malnourished children in Guatemala.

I'm An MTV Scab!

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Well, not really.  But this post will certainly be a test of my independence from big media.

If you haven't heard the news yet, I am one of the 51 citizen journalists selected for MTV's newly unveiled Street Team '08.  I'm going to be a one man media outlet (written, audio, and visual media) for Massachusetts youth.   MTV's press release, in one form or another, has found its way to the Associated Press, the Guardian, and Fox, and other outlets.

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