Tanzania 10 — Looking Back

Freitag, 5. August 2011 14:06

After some two weeks of traveling again, it is time to finally put here the last last pictures from Kagondo. At least until the next visit, which might be in September, and hopefully soon again after this year!


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What is Privilege? Not experiencing, and understanding with difficulty

Sonntag, 3. Juli 2011 17:32

What could have been a tweet is becoming a small post instead, because I found a discussion in the comment section so enlightening that I want to quote it here, along with some of the original content. The starting point is a story of sexual harassment at a (as far I understand) atheist or sceptic conference. Now, as some people said, the harassment was not „serious“: She was in the elevator back to her room after a party early in the morning, and a guy who got into the elevator with her asked her to have coffee in his room or something. She declined, end of story.

The case becomes interesting and even illustrative because it pits two camps against each other that I both subscribe to: open communication (and sexuality) advocates and feminists. And because the fascinating issue of „privilege“ (in this case the classic „male privilege“) comes in, which I’m starting to find a useful figure of thought in a number of social issues. To give my conclusion away: I’m siding with the feminist critique. And here’s why:


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Feminism, Masculism, Gender Egalitarian — united against Kyriarchy instead of Oppression Olympics

Samstag, 2. Juli 2011 19:21

In a series of feminist reading that I suppose my very un-feminist environment pushes me to I just found the Blog „No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz?“, which looks at gender issues with a focus on male disadvantages, something they call masculism. At the same time, they have a strong commitment to feminism and what they call „Gender Equality“ as the intersection of the two. What seems to be a trend among blogs that presuppose a lot of shared knowledge, they have an introductory section called „101“, which used to be the FAQ in the old days.

I highly recommend that FAQ for a brief and broad entry into how modern feminism (including masculism) should be understood. And want to quote the section on the „Kyriarchy or the Oppression Olympics“ here, which explains how to work together from different angles, instead of against each other:


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Wulff als Bundespräsident, Internationale Politik und zynische Politiker

Samstag, 2. Juli 2011 19:08

Die ZEIT hat ein schönes Interview mit Wulff. Naja, vieles ist vielleicht zu angenehm zu lesen, trotzdem fand ich ein paar Anregungen zu den im Titel genannten Themen. Hier sind sie:


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Tanzania 9 — Reflexionen zu Leben, Liebe, Entwicklung

Mittwoch, 29. Juni 2011 17:57

Mit Freude und einer gewissen Wehmut bediene ich mich wieder mal meiner Muttersprache, um etwas Ordnung in den Strom der Gedanken und Gefühle der letzten Monate zu bringen. Und Tansania war und ist sicherlich der bis jetzt anregendste Teil der Reise, für so ziemlich alle zentralen Themen der menschlichen Existenz gibt es Material zur Betrachtung und Problematisierung. Und das klingt schon danach, was es ist — in weiten Teilen ein eher betrübliches Bild, das mich mindestens in Bezug auf Afrika recht pessimistisch stimmt. Ich kann die Afrikaromantik, die in Europa glaube ich recht verbreitet ist, nicht nachvollziehen. Das heißt nicht, dass es hier keine fröhlichen Menschen gibt — aber ich denke, wer den Eindruck bekommt, dass die Menschen hier fröhlicher sind als daheim, hat den falschen Freundeskreis. Oder hat nur die Euphorie und Neugier eines kurzen Besuchs mitbekommen, es ist erstaunlich, wie viel Freude ein „mzungu“ (Weiße/r) hier auslöst, obwohl schon einige unterwegs sind. Es heißt auch sicherlich nicht, dass wir von den Kulturen hier nichts lernen können, ganz und gar nicht. Aber es sagt schon was, wenn die Mehrheit der jungen Leute, mit denen ich spreche, gerne hier weg möchte — und zwar für immer.


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Post-Modernisms Political Past and Future

Montag, 27. Juni 2011 14:09

In one of my probably last random internet excursions for the next months I came across the „World Socialist Web Site“ published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (trying to find out who that actually is on Wikipedia leads into the abyss of socialist splinter groups). While there is a lot of predictable nonsense on the website (you really don’t want to read what they write about the Western intervention in Lybia), I’ve come to find some modern Marxist thinking quite inspiring. This is especially true of a critique of Post-Modernism, a line of thought I also vaguely identify with (finding out more about what is really behind the term is somewhere near the top on my reading list for 2012). Let’s start with a definition of post-modern that maybe is (and certainly should be) commonplace, by Jean-François Lyotard, considered the founding father the philosophical Post-Modern:


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Tanzania 8 — Quiet Life Pictures

Samstag, 25. Juni 2011 18:40

Already the end of my stay in Tanzania is approaching rapidly, it is time for some more (maybe last) pictures and little stories, a post about the accumulated deeper thoughts and feelings is coming up, unfortunately in German — Google Translate is your friend :) — but here some international accessibility first.


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Capitalism vs. Free Market — what’s in a name, and is Fascism in the picture?

Sonntag, 5. Juni 2011 13:30

Despite my best efforts, this Sunday is on the best way to being a random-web-surfing day, reading (among many other things) critiques of Capitalism using an Indian company’s mobile network in remote Tanzania…

This randomness is of course the source of what we often deplore as procrastination, but I’m realizing it can also set free creativity, by presenting side by side concepts that seem only very loosely related at first. So here is my starting point, a very insightful remark on what difference it makes if we speak about Capitalism or Free Market Economy, from John Kenneth Galbraith, Canadian-American economist and author, published in the article Free Market Fraud in The Progressive magazine in 1999:


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Microcredit and Development — a Critique

Donnerstag, 2. Juni 2011 14:05

Following my economic observations and reflections on Development Aid here in Tanzania, I did some reading on microcredit, which seemed to me now maybe one of the most sensible things to do to stimulate development. My first-hand impression of some other obvious choices has not been very good so far — I am quite doubtful of the real-life benefit of the secondary education the students get in the school I am teaching in, for instance.

The articles I found convinced me that I wasn’t wrong entirely thinking microcredit could help. But there’s a big BUT, or a number of them actually. An article in the New Yorker from 2008 titled What Microloans Miss provides a very readable introduction, but my primary source is an article called Microfinance Misses Its Mark from Aneel Karnani, published in the 2007 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. It says that, first of all, microcredits help the not-so-poor better than the poorest:


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What’s wrong with evolutionary explanations of human behavior (as commonly understood)

Mittwoch, 1. Juni 2011 18:10

The evolutionary side of human behavior is something which is always good for heated discussions, having strong implications for important social issues. And often enough, people criticizing the evolutionary perspective find themselves in the trap of being seemingly unscientific. This, I believe, is a symptom of how the prevailing positivist („objectivist“) understanding of science is narrowing the scientific discourse, and the public discourse about science. But „political correctness“ is not the only way to oppose these (pseudo)evolutionary arguments.

I liked watching the first few classes of Robert Sapolsky’s „Human Behavioral Evolution“ course at Stanford from 2010, which are available for free on iTunes U (yes, you need iTunes). Even though the pointedness and entertainment of his arguments can be a little too much for a European audience, I highly recommend it for everybody who wants to fill in gaps in his or her understanding of evolution. And for people who consider themselves solid on the basics, I recommend a 20-minute summary of the criticism of evolutionary biology, at least as it is perceived and used by the public. I’m talking about the last 20 minutes, starting at 1:14, of the lecture 3 — Behavioral Evolution II (April 2, 2010). Here is a brief summary:


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