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Showing posts from November, 2013

Faith and Myths: Activism and Illegal Immigration

Post subtitle: How Myths Are Made

Mexico-U.S. relations have been complicated for some time by a triplet of crippling problems: drug trafficking, economic recession, and illegal immigration.* These, in turn, are driven by the moral evils of greed and violence. The intellectual puzzle comes in trying to sort all of these out and pinpointing the one problem whose dissolution would largely do away with the other problems. I certainly have no solution, but I do have a modest, unoriginal recommendation for finding one: honesty. We cannot get murderes and traffickers of drugs and humans to be honest and own up to what they have done and that it is wrong. We can, however, try to be honest when discussing economic theory and immigration policy--their purposes, effects, and effectiveness.

I was reminded of how easy it is to slip into unintentional untruths and, from there, to quickly create myths that just fester and spawn more until we have a huge globbed-up issue. I interviewed Mexican activis…

Faith and Myths: Reflections on JFK's Assassination

This post attempts to begin to bring together a few lines of thought from previous posts and current events. A couple of future posts will spend more time on some of those lines of thought, but this one focuses primarily on JFK's assassination, the 50th anniversary of which has just passed.

Apparently there is a huge intellectual community that vigorously explores myriad theories surrounding the events of that fateful day that saw the last successful assassination attempt of an American president. I know almost nothing of that community, much less the facts and theories of the JFK assassination. In the absence of knowledge, I ask myself, probably naively, why one man's death should so obsess us and whether it could ever have nearly as much significance and impact on the subsequent 50 (or more) years as we like to think. There are a lot of myths to unpack here, and of course the biggest obstacle is identifying what the myths are.

For example, 1) who really killed Kennedy and why …

A New Blog / Un Nuevo Blog

In my new job/studies at the University of South Carolina, I am taking my first graduate Spanish course with Dr. Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández. He has had some of us graduate students start a blog about the themes that we are interested in relating to the intersections of literature and current events, as well as announcements regarding events and conferences at USC.

The title of the blog is Información Artificial, a play on the title of the novel by Ricardo Piglia, Respiración Artificial. As we examine pressing issues from both the academic and popular perspectives, the title of the blog also reminds of our own vulnerability to giving a skewed perspective of the truth. I suppose it is in keeping with this that I should mention that the blog is not mine (though I will be posting to it fairly frequently), so not everything that appears on it represents my view of the issues.

Today in Language: Émile Nelligan

Le poète canadien Émile Nelligan est mort le 18 novembre 1941. Rue St.-Denis à Montréal dans le parc Saint-Louis.

A Business Professor on Mexican Drug Violence

This is a very professional video, by a professor with first-hand knowledge of both Mexico and business culture--and he makes the case for reconsidering the general approach to drug violence (though he gives no specific plan). He also reminds us that Americans, as much as anyone else, are complicit in the drug trafficking and related violence. He also touches briefly on the plight of migrants in Mexico (in relation to the drug traffickers). All of this raises the problem of myths. What political myths do we believe? What myths may be inherent in his own approach to the issue? How do we go about untangling all of the issues in such a complicated problem?

What Myths Do You Believe?

Because you most assuredly do believe some.

I have just started reading Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World by blogger Vinoth Ramachandra. I am sure the book will alternatively annoy me, convict me, and educate me. I have recently thought about myths that even the most educated believe because of things I have heard and participated in this week in courses and conferences at the University of South Carolina (more on that later this week). But ultimately, we do believe and propagate certain myths (e.g., the earth is flat, many times in accord with society and its pressures, but other times against those pressures, forming our own countercultural tendencies. Getting out of our myths may be the most difficult undertaking.
This is not a quotation from the book itself (I don't think) but from a summary of the book on the Barnes & Noble website:

It is a myth that only the uninformed masses believe in myths and that power brokers, media moguls, lea…

La Semana del Migrante

After Wednesday's post, I found out that this week was the "Semana del Migrante" in Mexico (perhaps other Latin- and Central-American countries as well?). I do not know exactly what that means, other than a week to focus attention on the plight of the immgrants (almost universally poor and undocumented) who either cross Mexico to reach the U.S. and, they hope, a better life, or else who die/disappear in Mexico.

This interested me in particular because of some of my work related to a course on contemporary Spanish-American narrative. My classmates and I had the opportunity this week to meet with, interview, and attend a conference with a Mexican activist who works in a shelter on the Mexico-Guatemala border. I hope to post both video and transcript from the interview, as well as further reflections on the topic of immigration (from the perspective of the U.S., though this activist is primarily concerned with Mexican policy) and related political and philosophical issues.

Los Invisibles - The Invisibles

A course I am taking this semester has led me back to the immigration issue, although from a bit broader perspective than just U.S. immigration law to the situation in Mexico and the harrowing experiences of Central American immigrants (almost always undocumented). I will soon be posting the text of an interview I have done with a Mexican activist but this documentary was drawn to my attention by a professor. Even if you don’t know Spanish, you can still watch it and basically just understand everyone as saying, “We are living the American nightmare, not the American dream. In attempting to cross Mexico, I/we have been assaulted/tortured/mutilated/raped.”

Language, a/the Bridge to Understanding

What do you think of this assertion: "El lenguaje constituye el único puente (aunque también un obstáculo) entre el hombre y el conocimiento" (Language constitutes the only bridge (although an obstacle as well) between man and understanding).

That comes from an article by Jimena Ugaz on a novel by Ricardo Piglia. I would certainly be inclined to agree with the staement, although the possibility of mentalese would make me back off a bit from the assertion (unless mentalese is understood as language in its own right). What really interests me in the statement, due to some of my recent work on postmodernism and poststructuralism (whatever you may take those terms to mean), is that language is also an obstacle to our understanding at times due to ubiquitous ambiguity. That truth is one of the greatest reminders given to philosophy and literary theory in the 20th century.