The May 2nd local elections in England were another set of lections that caught me by surprise, and once again in a good way. Based on the BBC’s website (https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/ceeqy0e9894t/england-local-elections-2019), the Liberal Democrats gained 706 seats and the Greens gained 194. This is a positive development, as the two major parties in the United Kingdom, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, have serious problems. The Conservative Party is experience internal chaos because of Brexit, and Theresa May’s handling of this situation has been incompetent. While I generally disagree with policies of the Conservatives, I mostly like the ideas coming Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. However, Corbyn’s inability to control the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism within the party has severely undermined my faith in them. Ultimately, while I may be more ideologically aligned with Labour, ultimately, I view the Liberal Democrats as the potential salvation of the United Kingdom.
Here are my thoughts on the Spanish General election on the 28th of April. I think the win by PSOE is quite surprising in light of the Andalusian elections, where PSOE lost control of the regional parliament of the region that was often seen as their base. The election was also a win for the Catalan nationalists, who now have the power to sway the policies implemented by PSOE by control their governmental status. One last surprise was that I thought that the far-right party VOX was going to gain more seats than they actually did. Altogether, this election was a pleasant surprise to me.
This semester, I have been a member of the French club. During my time at the French club, we have done a number of activities, including a French game in which there are the categories “Animals, Fruits/Vegetables, Professions, Given Names, and Places” (translated from French). The French actually includes two French people, Jade and Julian. Other activities that we did include: discussing human trafficking in France, discussing Northern African countries that speak French, and mostly just talking about France.
I participated in a study recently on French language comprehension in individuals who have intermediate levels of French comprehension. In this study, which was conducted by a senior named Madilyn, in which she played a recording. In group that I was in, she primed us by telling us what she was going to play, a chapter from the work Le Petit Nicholas which describes an attempt at taking a school photograph. Apparently, in the other groups, she told one group nothing and the other that it was going to be about an elephant. This was an interesting experience and I am glad to have been able to help with this experiment.
On Wednesday 5/1/2019, I went to a screening of the anime Zombie Land Saga from 8:00 pm to around 10:00 pm. Without going into much detail of the plot, in the blog post I will discuss how this anime reflected the importance of Idols in Japanese culture.
What is an idol? In Japan, as well as some other East Asian countries like Korea. Idols are groups of young people, often of the same gender, who are manufactured by music producers.
In this anime, the idols are zombies. It is strange, I know. But, it reflects on large amount of control that the producers have on idols.
Altogether, going to this international event helped me to learn about idols, something I knew little about.
On Friday, December 7, 2018, I attended a meeting of the French Club that celebrated the end of the semester. While I had previously been unable to attend the French Club due to it being during my work, I was able to attend this event. At this event, I ate macarons (two cookies with meringue in the center), madeleines (a small cake, famous for a scene in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu), gougères (French cheese puffs), pomegranate fleshy seeds, Camembert cheese, and French bread.
Andalusia, a region in southern Spain, held their elections on December 2nd, 2018, so four days ago. What happened in the elections surprised many commentators. A far right-wing party VOX became the first party of its type to win seats in a region of Spain since the end of the Phalangist Regime of Generalissimo Franco. Vox managed to win 12 seats out of 109 in Andalusia (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/03/spain-far-right-vox-party-wins-seats-in-andalucia-for-first-time-since-franco)
So, what is this party VOX? What does it stand for? As I mentioned earlier, it is considered a far-right party. But, to truly understand it, one must understand the political history behind it.
Historically there have been two major parties in Spain: the People’s Party (PP) (a center-right party) and the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) (a center-left party). PSOE traditionally dominated in Andalusia (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/03/spain-far-right-vox-party-wins-seats-in-andalucia-for-first-time-since-franco). In recently years to other parties have formed: Citizens (C’s)(center to center-right) and Podemos (means We Can in Spanish)(leftwing; think Bernie Sanders). Note: the author of this blog has very similar political leanings to those found in Podemos. To understand the rise of the two parties, and of VOX, you have to consider the internal divides within Spain.
Spain has many different regions, some of which speak different languages than Spanish. These include Galicia (north of Portugal), Basque Country (in the Pyrenees on the border with France), and the largest one, Catalonia (located in the northwest with its capital being Barcelona). Catalonia declared independence in October 27, 2017, but the members of government who performed this act of what the Spanish consider rebellion were either arrested or fled into exile (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41871476). This sudden expansion of activity from the Catalan independence movement resulted much political division.
The PP government led by Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy (including support from C’s, which had already seen growth in reaction to the growth in the Catalan independence movement prior to the actual declaration) was very unstable and ended up collapsing after a number of politicians within the party were convicted in the Gürtel case. Prime Minster Rajoy failed a vote of no confidence and was removed (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/01/world/europe/spain-mariano-rajoy-no-confidence.html). His government was replaced by the current one, which is led by Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez of PSOE, with support from Podemos and its allies.
The rise of Podemos was prompted by two things: the economic collapse where Spain suffered a terrible recession and severe austerity measures and the rise of the Catalonian independence movement, which Podemos supports. The combination of these two left Podemos as the third largest party in Spain.
Now back to the election results in Andalusia. While C’s, PP, and PSOE all oppose Catalan independence, there is a perception by some Spanish nationalists that they are not doing enough. VOX, however, proposes extreme measures to deal with this situation, including the complete removal of power from the Autonomous Regions that Spain has set up to allow the minorities some form of self-governance. This hardline position attracted attention to the party, which they expanded upon by adopting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stances popular in the European far-right (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/03/far-right-success-in-andalucia-reflects-spains-fragmented-politics). This large gain in Andalusia, the heartland of Spanish leftism outside of Catalonia, suggest even larger gains in more conservative areas. This could spell doom to the current left-wing government, as well as represent the continuing growth of the far-right, which has now punctured areas like Spain that have seemed to been immune until recently.
Why was Jair Bolsonaro elected President of Brazil? This is a question that many people around the world are asking. It seemed rather surprising that a diverse and democratic nation like Brazil would elect someone who is antidemocratic and intolerant of people who are not white males like him (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/28/jair-bolsonaro-wins-brazil-presidential-election). The reasons have to deal with continuing collapse of the largest political party in Brazil, the Worker’s Party.
The Worker’s Party was founded by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. President da Silva, often just called Lula, led Brazil to unprecedented prosperity, but the global recession in 2008 and scandals during Operation Car Wash under Worker’s Party president Dilma Rousseff destroyed this legacy. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/07/world/americas/brazil-lula-surrenders-luiz-inacio-lula-da-silva-.html)
I personally consider Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to have been probably the best president Brazil ever had, based off of his accomplishments in Brazil, but the corruption of both his and his successor’s administrations have left Brazil tired of the rule of the Worker’s Party and desperate for change.
So, unfortunately, the candidate who made it to the second round of presidential elections in Brazil, former mayor of Sao Paolo Fernando Haddad, had to deal with the negative developments in the reputation of his party even though there is no evidence that he was corrupt.
The negative developments here left Brazil desperate for a change. This is where Bolsonaro comes in. He had been a member of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of Congress, since 1991. However, he was not respected. He was like Congressmen Steve King is here; almost no one took his ideas seriously, but he kept on getting reelected anyway. Brazil has long had a history of racism playing a large role in its society, much like the United States of America, and Jair Bolsonaro was considered a loony remnant of this past.
But, starting in the early 2010’s, rightwing populism rose in many countries. And since Brazil had been run by the left since 2003, the dissatisfaction there was particularly strong. Brazil has long had significant rightwing tendency, with it having a monarchy at one point and more recently a military junta. The tendency combined with dissatisfaction with the corruption with the Worker’s Party governments made it ripe for an especially rightwing leader like Bolsonaro. Ultimately, these elements brought him to the presidency. I can only hope that Brazil can survive this challenge.
I went to a concert on Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 8:00 PM-9:45PM performed by the African drumming and dance group African Sanké. They produced a show called The Woman Who Couldn’t Find Happiness.
The leader of the African Sanké group is Aboubacar Sidick Camara, who lives in Adams Center here at OU with his wife who is a professor. He will begin teaching drumming classes next semester. He is from West Africa and lived in both Guinea and Senegal. The performance he used different styles of music from Guinea.
The performance had a romantic plot to it, but the plot was somewhat hard to follow as there seemed to be little or no conflict present in it. The plot went something like this: a man falls for a woman who is washing something in the river. He helps her carry this something in her basket back to village and gets her to fall for him. He then tells his friend about who tries to teach him some dance. Then there was a celebratory dance followed by another sequence with the friend teaching him dance moves. Then, while spending time with the woman, two elders try to break the relationship up by scolding them, but they did not even seem to notice. Then the village has another celebratory dance. This is all that I could tell happened.
The drumming in this production had very complex rhythms. It was amazing how Aboubacar Camara was playing his drum. I could not tell if his palms were actually hitting the drum or he was hitting it with his wrist. The drumming was fast and energetic.
The dancing in this program involved the dancers doing a lot of swinging motions with their arms and for the male lead, his head. The dance towards the end with the two guys and the poles reminded me of Fred Astaire. The majority of the dancing was more figurative than this example though. At one point they had the main male and his friend do back flips on the stage and walk on their hands. This was interesting. Most of the dancing was not as demanding as this tough. There was lots of swaying.
This program was very interesting. The cultural meaning portrayed by some elements of the production, such as the costumes, were lost on me, but I had a great experience anyway, and gained appreciation of Guinean music.
In Ernesto Sirolli’s TED speech, he describes his approach to international development. In his talk he described his view on development in poor areas “shut up and listen.” By this, he meant that experts from wealthy countries should go to the poor countries and help entrepreneurs in those countries fulfill their dreams. He proposed that going out, listening, and befriending these people was the only effective way to help develop poor areas, since the entrepreneurs will continue to be there long after the aid workers have left.
Mr. Sirolli’s ideas may be the best, but they require experts investing huge amounts of time to go to individual entrepreneurs and assist them with setting up their business, and with setting up contacts for them. This program seems overly difficult to implement in many cases. The amount of work that would have to be done to help one entrepreneur would be large, and considering how many areas need so much help, the amount of assistance provided to develop the economy of only a few neighborhoods would be enormous. This does not seem practical if the goal is to help many people. While the long-term gains for an individual helped will be high, the gains to society will often not be as large as if the time and money was spent on something with very high returns, like bug nets for the prevention of mosquito bites causing malaria.
The truth of the matter is that, while Mr. Sirolli’s ideas if they could be implemented would probably be very beneficial to society, it is impossible to implement them on a large enough scale to be effective. You would need several hundred thousand experts on business traveling to poor areas and dedicating their lives to assisting people with starting businesses. This seems impossible to me. The likelihood of the developed counties being able to afford to train hundreds of thousands of people up to a M.B.A. level and then to send them to poor areas for many years without noticeably damaging the economies of the developed countries seems really difficult. The only way I can see this happening is if multiple billionaires come together to fund such a program, and even then, it would be really hard to find enough people who are willing and qualified to venture out to help the aspiring entrepreneurs