Into the Mainstream: The Rise of Radical Populism in Europe

This week I had the opportunity to attend Into the Mainstream: Explaining the Rise of Radical Populist Parties in Europe. The lecture was held at Zarrow Hall by Dr. Reinhard Heinisch. I decided to attend this lecture purely out of obligation. I realized that this lecture would not only count towards my Global Engagement requirements but it would also count as an extra credit opportunity in my Understanding the Global Community class.  In this lecture, Dr. Reinhard Heinisch attempted to explain the rise of radical populist parties in Europe and the long-term implications of this phenomena. In general, populism is the political doctrine that proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite and seeks to solve this. From the lecture, it seems that populism In recent years, Europe has experienced a rise in radical populism and it isn’t just a momentary trend. It’s on the rise because this kind of party is highly mobile, flexible, and represents more than just one pool of voters. In fact, in the lecture, Dr. Reinard Heize, explained that populism steals from both left and right wing parties. As a result, the rise and growth of populism in Europe has caused rises in emerging political parties, nationalism/nativism and anti-globalist views.

I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture but wish Dr. Reinhard would’ve delved more into the effects of populism and its future implications. Overall, increased nationalism and anti-globalist views in Europe is alarming and leads me to question whether this rise in populism will lead to large increases in racism and paranoia in Europe. The rise of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views already seems to be proof of this. The masses in Europe seem to fear losing their social identity and sense of control. Moreover, how far will the rise in populism set globalist ideals back? For the most part, in recent years, the world has undergone a steady process of globalization that has spread trade, technology, and capital across global boundaries. However, as the rise of nationalism and nativism increases in Europe the masses will undoubtedly want to stray away from the globalist agenda. I feel that in the upcoming years this could eventually mean decreases in international correspondence and negotiation as every country will be more concerned with their own social and political agenda. Alarmingly, this could in turn also weaken larger international bodies like NATO and the United Nations. However, the bigger concern is that, the world can’t afford this type of social and political development. In order to ensure changes in larger issues like inequality and environmental sustainability, cooperation and understanding need to be continued.

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Language and Religion: The Case of Arabic

Last week, I attended Language and Religion: The Case of Arabic. The speaker, Dr. Muhammad S. Eissa, is an independent scholar who has taught Arabic since 1966. In this lecture, Dr. Muhammad explained the significance of language and how it affects how we practice and perceive religion. He placed the largest emphasis on how the Arabic language affects how Muslims practice and perceive the Quran. Language is often largely associated with identity. Therefore, in most cases, if an individual associates a language with a religion than it begins to alter their perception and understanding of that religion. The language of the Quran has always been the Arabic language. According to Dr. Muhammad, for Muslims to truly recognize the Quran, the book has to be in the Arabic. The teachings behind the Quran are altered if the book is translated in another language. In short, the translated Quran, is no longer the Quran. This seems to be in part, because of diglosia, the situation when two languages are used in different conditions within the community.

Overall, Dr. Muhammad left his topic open ended and only lightly touched base with its significance. However, I was relatively intrigued by the points he made during his lecture. The biggest question I had during his discussion was whether the Arabic language hinders teaching and interpreting the Quran to different groups of people. Although I understand there will be discrepancies between the wording of the Quran if it is translated into another language, I don’t believe language should play such a big factor in how a religion is spread/taught. Are the people that are learning the Quran in different languages practicing its teachings incorrectly? However, with that being said, I also understand that the Quran is extremely sacred for Muslims. It is a significant part of their religious and social identities. Therefore, its justified that Muslims can only recognize the Quran in its original Arabic language.

 

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Waking the Green Tiger

On April 6, I attended a film screening and discussion over the documentary, Waking The Green Tiger. Original filmmaker, Gary Marcuse and journalist, Jianquiang Liu, facilitated the discussion that occurred afterwards. Waking the Green Tiger documents the unprecedented campaign against building a dam on the upper Yangtze River in Southwestern China. The film showcases the struggle of environmental activists, villagers, and NGOs to protect the livelihood of the villages and the surrounding environment from the construction of a dam at Tiger Leaping Gorge. The film also follows China’s history of environmental degradation and the strengthening of China’s environmental protection agency. The film and presenters were clear on their main points. Although the victory at Tiger Leaping Gorge strengthened the environmental protection agency in China, continued efforts towards unification and awareness must be made to stop future construction. Moreover, the growth and strengthening of the environmental protection agency portrays more than just strides towards bettering the environment. This movement presents key elements in the creation of democracy in China.

The film screening and discussion allowed me to learn about China’s history and current circumstances. During the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong adopted the belief that “man must conquer nature”. As a result, men, woman, and children participated in environmental campaigns that led to severe cases of pollution and environmental degradation. At this point, people who disagreed with the chairman’s movements were punished in the name of treason. However, today, the growth of green activism and the spread of knowledge on human rights have allowed people in China to take bigger roles in protecting the environment. This showcases the evolution of a more democratic China as people are beginning to understand their rights.

Overall, I found the documentary to be extremely enriching. This documentary largely related to my Understanding the Global Community class because it showcased the power and inequality within China. The issue documented in this documentary showcases power and inequality within China as it portrays China’s structural violence. For instance, in Tianba, a small town in the Sichuan province, the building of a dam cost the rural villagers their livelihood and their homes. The villagers in the film indicated that the government left them with nothing after relocating them from their submerged homes. The lack of compensation for the rural farmers portrays structural violence within China as urban families are treated much better than their rural counterparts. Moreover, the Hukou system within China bars these villagers from migrating elsewhere to find better living conditions. It becomes evident that building the dams benefits the urban people in developed cities much more than it does their rural counterparts who must suffer the consequences.

All in all, even through I don’t know much about China’s social and political environment, I agreed with many of the points the speaker mentioned throughout the Q and A session. As movements like China’s Green Movement are gaining strength, people will continue to vouch for their rights. The success of political movements like the campaign at Tiger Leaping Gorge ushers confidence in the common people and political activist to unify and push for change. However, I believe that there are still many challenges these movements must face as there are still large restrictions on what can be said and done in China.

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Water Security on the Kabul River Basin

During international week, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on water security on the Kabul River Basin. The Kabul River Basin is a body of water that emerges in the mountains of Afghanistan and empties into Pakistan. It’s evidently, a large body of water shared by both countries. This body of water is relied on as a water source for millions of Afghanistan and Pakistan people. However, due to factors like climate change, insufficient use of water, increasing populations, and outdated irrigation systems, water scarcity is threatening the livelihood of millions and creating political blame and water related conflicts. The speaker of seminar, Sher Jan Ahmadzai, explained that he believed the situation in this region can only be alleviated by bilateral cooperation between states, the development of trust and objectivity, and the sharing of information and data. One thing is certain, as it stands now the water security crisis on the Kabul River Basin cannot be avoided in the future.

The issue of water security is prominent in parts of Africa and the Middle East as lack of development, social structure, and increasing population densities play a large role in the depletion of water. Although I don’t know a lot about water security in Afganistan and Pakistan, I found this topic relatively interesting. Like mentioned in the seminar, Pakistan and Afghanistan already have a long-standing history of social and political strife as the two nations stemmed from the same revolutionary period. On top of that, in more recent decades, the rise of nationalist rebels and signs of terrorism has caused relations to deteriorate. Relating to international law and communication, it’ll be extremely difficult for Pakistan and Afghanistan to cooperate with one another to regulate water usage. In this region, water conflict seems to be inevitable. This leads me to my first questions. Given the urgency of the situation, would an international organization like the United Nations be able to help Pakistan and Afghanistan reach an agreement with one another? In our readings, this week we’re learning about international organizations and international law. I believe as water scarcity continues to grow in these areas and relationships start to deteriorate between the countries facing these issues, that conflicts caused by water scarcity will eventually become larger international conflicts. Moreover, more developed countries are likely to be involved as highly developed countries are linked to climate change. In this case, climate change has caused not only the quick evaporation of the water within the basin, but also the melting of the glaciers that are the source of river.

My second question for this seminar is that as populations are pushed out of the Kabul River Basin in Afghanistan and Pakistan, how will social and environmental inequality begin to shape their lives? As millions begin to push out of these regions, they will most likely try to find new lives in already overpopulated cities and towns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will most likely cause flairs of social inequality to increase as the rich will try to starve out resources for themselves and their families. Refugees will most likely be subject to some form of social inequality as their livelihoods will change.

Overall, issues with water scarcity like the Kabul River Basin will become more prominent in years to come as these issues affect more than just the rural populations near the rivers/bodies of water. Therefore, like Sher Jan Ahmadzai mentioned, it’s extremely important for these areas to develop trust and cooperation with one another to ensure a better future for the millions affected. However, only time will tell if these areas are willing to negotiate with one another for the greater good of their countries.

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Forum on Democracy: Identities Under Surveillance

This semester I also had the opportunity to attend a segment of the Forum on Democracy called Identities Under Surveillance. The speaker, Dr. Mirelsie Vasquez, spoke about the impacts of stricter immigration laws and deportation on immigrants and their families. Dr. Vasquez’s main point was that despite the new laws and racial stereotypes, immigrants should still be considered people. The United States is slowly being consumed by xenophobic tendencies as people are becoming more discriminatory towards immigrants. As a result, immigrants are often viewed as lazy undesirables or criminals. In some cases, immigrants are accused of taking jobs from blue collared workers. However, the United States and the American Dream is essentially built upon immigrants finding success and freedom in America. Immigrants contribute to the workforce, not take from it. Throughout her lecture Dr. Vasquez mentioned that deportation affects not only the lives of the immigrants who are being deported but the lives of their friends and loved ones as well. Although the men and women who deport often miss out on the chance of having a freer and safer life, their families and friends become subject to losing their loved ones. In her lecture, Dr. Vasquez used the recent example of a hispanic man who committed suicide moments after being deported from the United States to showcase the desperation and oppression felt by many undocumented immigrants as a result of Trump’s crackdown on deportations. In the end of her lecture, Dr. Vasquez reminded the audience that America was built upon the drive and dreams of the immigrants who came here looking for a better life. As a result, as a population we should fight against the unlawful tide of stricter immigration laws and deportation cases. We should welcome immigrants with open arms.

The lecture was extremely eyeopening for me. Although, I’ve never agreed with Trump’s stricter immigration policies or his crackdown on deportation, I was never aware of the severity of the issue. My parents were immigrants themselves. They immigrated over thirty years ago to escape the Vietnam War. Through my parents dedication and hard work, they were able to attain their citizenship in the states and build a stable life for our family. My mother often worked long nights and was lucky enough to even start her own business. I believe criminal activity among immigrants should be looked at as a case by case bases. In no way should immigrants be considered lazy or unlawful because the majority of the time its the complete opposite. Immigrants often have to work longer hours with smaller wages to support their themselves and their families. Moreover, many immigrants also try their best to abide to U.S. laws for fear of trouble or deportation. The fact is that many immigrants come to the United States in hope of creating a better for future for themselves and their families. Many immigrants come to the United States in order to find safety and shelter from the oppressive and dangerous environments they face back at home. For example, this explains the recent influx of Muslim immigrants to Europe. The bigger question is that instead of helping and welcoming these people in the United States, why are vying to send them back? By doing so, we’re not only potentially denying thousands of families and people the safety they deserve, we’re also denying them and their children from attaining the sense of freedom and opportunity present in the United States.

The lecture reminded me of a small memory I had in highschool. I remember sitting in the first few weeks of my speech one class my Freshman year of highschool. My friend, Claudia, went up to give her first major speech on the topic of her choice: immigration. However, instead of receiving the support and recognition that she should have been given during her speech, I remember seeing frowns of disapproval and hearing snide remarks from the upperclassmen in the class. Needless to say, although this issue is receiving recognition among minorities, a lot of work still needs to be done in order to reverse the nature of racial profiling and stereotyping among immigrants and their families. Attention needs to be brought forth to educate the masses on the severity of stricter immigration laws and the nature of deportation.

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