Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 18th, 2015

            This week we discussed Africa. We talked about the economic and environmental issues faced by African countries, as well as the different pandemics that affect certain parts of the continent.
            Africa is affected by several different types of pandemic diseases such as sleeping sickness, HIV/AIDS, flatworm parasites, malaria, river blindness and ebola. All of these are very deadly and rapidly spread, killing many people. The economy of African countries obviously varies from country to country, but overall, the continent is in a poor economic state because it has a huge debt, and it exports its raw materials rather than engaging in industry to produce goods. The farmers there only grow enough food to feed their families and do not produce an excess to make a profit. All of these factors combine to create a bad economy across the continent.
            Africa also experiences environmental issues. There is rapid deforestation and desertification, meaning the forests are dying and the deserts are expanding. Desertification was a major factor in the genocide in Rwanda. Water is becoming even more scarce, and the animals are dying off.

            In modern geography, the continent of Africa isn’t seen as a colonization opportunity, but as a moral obligation for society to help the people living there. In my opinion, we can give Africans the tools they need to help themselves, but we shouldn’t be able to force them to conform to Western standards of society and culture. Westernization has begun eradicating many languages native to Africa. It seems to me that making Africa a moral obligation does not have to mean eradicating the culture to save the people. Medicine can be brought in, explained and offered, but we shouldn’t force it on anyone. Education can be offered but the fact that all education we bring to Africa comes with a religious or linguistic element means that it exists mostly to Westernize Africans rather than to teach them how to help themselves.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 11th, 2015

            This week we discussed religion, and whether we personally need it, or whether society needs it. Karl Marx called religion the “opium of society.” He believed that religion prevented the organization of society and led to its chaos. I don’t know if I agree with that strong statement. I personally am not religious at all. I don’t attend church regularly, I don’t believe in any kind of God and I don’t pray to anything. I think that religion plays a very large role in our society, and that it is very important to many people. There are all kinds of redemption stories associated with each religion, people who believe their lives have been irrevocably changed for the better after encountering their religion, and I truly believe that is possible. But I also hear many stories of religious extremism where people use their religion and the differences between religions as justification for terrorist acts or violence.
            The differences between religions lead to differences in culture, which is another thing that could be considered good and bad. As with the conflict between the US and the Middle East, differing cultures based on religious disagreement can lead to violence. But the differences are also beautiful to me. Cultures that develop together tend to look the same, but cultures that develop separately become unique and give people the chance to see different ways of life, modes of art and nuances of language.

            I think the fact that society continues to create religions even in the modern age when science has begun to dominate theological debate says that society needs religion. Regardless of whether religion is harmful or helpful to society, it will almost certainly always be present in society. We talked about religion providing moral guidance for people. I think some people need to believe in a reward for moral behavior in order to behave morally. I find that idea sad, because I believe in the goodness of people and their ability to make good choices. I hate that religion often provides a threat of hell to make people be good. If I believed in a God, I wouldn’t want that God to be the kind that punishes people. I would want God to be a comfort to people, and an encouragement for people to spread love, acceptance and understanding. That’s the thing religion can do well, if it is viewed in the right way. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March 4th, 2015

            This week we talked about gender in political geography. Gender is the social construct that men and women are different. We spoke about the statistical significance of the differences in voting patterns between men and women, such as the idea that more women vote for gun control. We talked about the tendency for society to become more violent when men are isolated and women removed, versus when the two genders are present, and cited the examples of the American West and the violence that was rampant there before women were brought out to begin homesteads, and the differences between male only dorms and co-ed dorms. Statistically, students get better grades and engage in less risky behavior while living in co-ed dorms. We talked about the tendency of mass shooters to be single white men, the idea that maybe men are tempered by women when they marry to women.

It upset me that in this discussion about gender we completely disregarded the fact that there are more than two genders, and people that identify with no gender. These people are often considered statistically insignificant, but using the same scale we might say that the entire redheaded or vegetarian populations are statistically insignificant. As well, we did touch on the idea that gender is socialized, but we didn’t really discuss the implications of that concept. To me, that means that while all the statistics and facts that we discussed are true now, they don’t have to be in the future. Men might not always be more prone to violence or more likely to vote against gun control. Women might not always be more peaceful and more prone to caregiving behavior. All of these behaviors are dictated by society as it stands today, and I think that is very important.
       We can talk all day about the reasons why men and women are different, why their voting patterns, behaviors and habits oppose and we can cite science and biology but in my opinion, people are different from animals because they are able to reason and behave rationally. This means we don’t have to be governed by biology, and the differences are accentuated by society rather than dulled by them. In at least one case, the case of the single white male shooters, gender differences cause harm to society.