and i am so behind. and this was not worth the grief it caused me to even begin to write. (yeah yeah yeah yeah i should be better, this isn't such a big deal, blahblahblah) but anyway, here it is:

Response to Borders, Boundaries, and Citizenship, by Seyla Benhabib

Seyla Benhabib argues for a liberalism that translates more to what she refers to as cosmopolitan federalism, in the tradition of Kant (674). According to her, this translation is necessary in the modern context of immigration and movement that occurs across borders and boundaries, ever increasing with the advent of globalization. She does not scrap the nation-state model but rather says that "only within a framework of sub- and transnational modes of cooperation, representation, and collaboration is it possible to protect the fundamental values of liberal and republican liberty, that is of private and public autonomy" (676).

The problem with globalization is that it only serves the interests of the most powerful/privileged nation-states, even though it seems to undermine the legitimacy of state governance and authority. Nevertheless, what is actually happening is that these powerful sovereign states are participants in and transformers of the process of globalization. Globalization makes it possible for multinational corporations, fundamentally benefiting only certain western powers and in particular the US, to exploit cheap labour elsewhere, among other things. Globalization is only a new technique of imperialism; a transition from colonialism to systemic hegemony.

Benhabib attempts to provide a solution to the marginalization and oppression experienced by migrants, "illegal aliens," undocumented residents of democratic states, etc. She praises the European Union's system of transnational citizenship, though she also recognizes ways in which it has not quite lived up to its ideals yet. However, she proposes their system as a model. The problem with reforms to strict citizenship criteria without actually critiquing liberalist ideology, though, is that the very nature of liberal ideology necessitates that people get left out of it. By presupposing that there can be a "universal" charter of human rights, room for difference becomes smaller and tighter. Although with several reforms there can be room for difference, and "concessions" to groups that are marginalized, I would argue, again, that the very fact that various groups are and will be marginalized is woven into the fabric of liberal ideology.

People are different, and have different needs, and some of those needs (rights) will not apply to other people. The construction of democratic nation-states is very much based on universal ideology. The rule of the "majority" will always create dialectics of majority and minority, wherein the "majority" may or may not actually be the majority, but will have privilege in decision-making and creating laws. The very idea of majority rule is problematic because people cannot be simply divided up into majorities and minorities. The idea of the individual, predicated on universal ideas of what it means to be a human being, does not recognize the fact of interdependence or that individuals comprise communities and not only that but communities also comprise individuals. I am not just myself; I am made by my context -- the interpenetration of biology, histories, movements, environments, social interactions, communities, etc. Any attempt at separation is artificial, reductionist and exclusionary.

The ideal of the individual isolates human beings and tries to find something fundamental to them. In this process of finding fundamental characteristics that are universal to all individuals, difference gets excluded or marginalized. In order to truly tackle various political problems, including citizenship, I think the links between liberalism (individualism), western colonialism and imperialism, and oppression must be fully realized.
Response to War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning*, by Chris Hedges
*link to excerpt

In his book, Chris Hedges talks about how war is constructed as culture, myth and necessity. He talks somewhat romantically about how war is a drug, and how it makes us realize the sheer vapidity and tininess of our lives. However, at the same time he clearly recognizes, as a reporter who has been at the frontlines of war, that war is anything but romantic. It is portrayed as romantic in the media, but its reality is destructive, horrific and desolate. Hedges says that each new generation comes forth believing in the same old lie, the same old grand romanticized myth, about war as something that will transform the nation and bring glory to the (rightly) victorious people.

I would add that these populations of people who believe this myth and contribute and maintain the culture of war are also privileged to do so. Although it is true that disprivileged peoples are susceptible to war's appeal, the fact of being oppressed, or warred upon, rather constantly, makes that appeal far more short-lived, I think. The realization of the futility of war comes much quicker for those who don't have systemic power that grants them stability or victory.

I also disagree with Hedges' assertion that there is a killer underneath the surface in every one of us. It is true that as human beings, we are capable of murder and other horrific acts of violence. However, the idea that this capability is some inherent force that lies dormant and can be awakened in certain circumstances takes agency away from human beings and locates it in our biology or culture or some such deterministic context. I think it is much more helpful to recognize that we are participants and agents in our own and other people's lives, and that we can make choices.

Our agency may be limited by lack of systemic power; however, this does not negate it. Rather I think it is more important to look at how people claim their agency in adverse circumstances. Refugees in Gaza or starving populations in African or Asian countries do not lead the most meaningless, pitiable lives. Their circumstances are adverse, and we (as students in this American context) are greatly privileged over them. Ironically, it is my privilege that allows me to pass judgment and make assumptions about the meaning or lack thereof in the lives of "the masses".

It is also possible, though, to see Hedges' statements about our capability to do evil as breaking the popular illusion that murderers, sociopaths, rapists, criminals, etc, are somehow separate and altogether different from the rest of us. It alerts us to the fact that we are all potential culprits and perpetrators. When we start seeing war as culture, we can see how war manifests itself in the form of several different varieties of oppressive cultures. The oppression makes it so that violence becomes normative and/or glorified.

I think Hedges' book is important in that it alerts us to facts about war and its brutality. It shows us the violence that really takes place, and rejects the glorified heroics that are presented by the press. I am not sure how useful his book is for breaking down systemic hierarchies and oppressive structures, but it is informative.
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