International Event: UWC Scholar Dinner

Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with UWC Scholars from across campus. UWC (United World Colleges) is a global educational program that includes students from across the world. I am fortunate enough to attend a University that has many UWC Students because of a wonderful scholarship program that the University offers.

The dinner was hosted at the Tri Delta house. We ate burgers and apple pie and discussed everything from campus news to international world relations. I enjoyed hearing about what the UWC scholars missed about their home countries, their experiences in an international boarding school, and their experiences on OU’s campus. It was interesting hearing about American University life from another perspective. It was also interesting because all of the UWC Scholars at my table were freshman, so I was able to hear about their experience transitioning from their previous educational experiences to their time at OU.

I am very thankful to go to a school with opportunities to hear from and meet students with international backgrounds.

Muslim-L3AYN L7AMRA

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post how much I enjoy listening to music from different cultures.  For one of my Arabic class, we were tasked with presenting on an Arabic song, food, or holiday.  My group decided to analyze the song L3AYN L7AMRA by Muslim.  It was a very dark song considering the flow of the melody.  It tells the story of a man slowly descending into madness and despair.  The man was relentlessly bullied by another individual.  Eventually, he had enough and set out for revenge.   The song is really well written and the emotion seems raw in the singer’s voice.  Here’s the link if any of you want to check it out:

 

White Helmets

While sifting through the Netflix documentary section, I came across The White Helmets a 2016 documentary film that shows the efforts of a group of indomitable first responders that risk their lives to rescue victims of the daily airstrikes in Syria.  The White Helmets focuses on three members of the group, Khaled Farah, Abu Omar, and Mohammed Farah.  It follows these men as they struggle to balance volunteers to rescue victims and working to come home to their families safely.  Watching these men risk their livelihood to save a week-old baby almost allows you to forget the misery and terror these people are facing on a daily basis.  Due to the fact that “The White Helmets” are an organization operating outside the area of regime control has brought accusations and mistrust.  However, the director of this film believes that these men are the real heroes.  Khaleed Khateeb is a volunteer for the Syria Civil Defense forces, rescuing those caught in the crossfire of the civil war.  The Syria Civil Defense forces are informally known as the White Helmets due to their headgear.  Khateeb began filming scenes of the rescue missions and posting them on YouTube. The director, Orlando von Einsiedel, decided to make the documentary about the group, he contacted Khateeb, gave him better equipment, and told him to keep filming.  In the five years since the civil war between President Bashar Assad’s government and the rebel group began, more that 250,000 Syrians have died in the resulting conflict.  But, thanks to the White Helmets, over 60,000 lives have been saved.  Einsiedel was moved by the story and Khateeb’s videos and went on to make an Oscar winning documentary.  While the film sparked a wave of controversy, I found the film to be extremely interesting and well executed. It definitely a gave me a new perspective on the Syrian civil war and I suggest that anyone interested in the conflict to watch it. While it is obviously a biased film considering that who it follows, it offers a unique perspective to an important international issue that too many people are uniformed about.

 

International Event: Dia de los Muertos

On this past Sunday, I attended the Dia de los Muertos celebration at Lloyd Noble. The celebration was in honor of the centuries-old Latin American holiday that celebrates the lives of departed friends and family members. The celebration was super cool and I got to see a number of great performers. I got to see a group from the Capitol Hill High School perform Bruno Mars in the distinctive instrumentation of the Mariachi style of music. I also bought a tamale from a food truck and it was delicious. I am thrilled to go to a school that provides us with these cultural events and opportunities.

International Group: The International Business Student Association

The International Business Student Association has been a great asset to me throughout my time as an IB major. The group is organized by the International Business advisor, so she is very knowledgable about the program and the challenges that IB students face. The International Business Student Association allows IB majors to stay in close communication throughout the semester. We are able to keep in touch and receive updates on our peers who study abroad (it is a requirement of the IB major) and we are also presented with different and exciting international opportunities through the association.

Radicalism and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic

HIV/AIDS affects some of the poorest countries in the world. Even within those countries, the disease often targets some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Over 70% of the forty million people living with HIV/AIDS are living in Africa (Dixon, McDonald, and Roberts). This large population of people living with HIV/AIDS has impacted the development of African nations. Thus, it has also impeded the nations’ abilities to manage the wide-spread health threat. Generally accepted economic theory suggests that the profusion of people living with HIV/AIDS reduces labor supply and productivity, reduces exports, and increases imports (Dixon, McDonald, and Roberts). HIV/AIDS hinders development and thus further stratifies the Western and developing nations. The long term economic consequences that have arisen from the HIV/AIDS crisis can, and may only, be aided with international economic support (Dixon, McDonald, and Roberts).

During the presidency of Thabo Mbeki from 1999 to 2008, the South African government denied the existence of HIV/AIDS. This denialism had a significant impact on the country’s population; HIV/AIDS denialism during this period has contributed to between 343,000 and 365,000 preventable deaths. Although the motive behind Mbeki’s denial of HIV/AIDS is still unclear, there are several popular assumptions. Martin Asser suggests that Mbeki’s denialism may be a result of the high prices of drug therapy and the inability to provide the expensive therapy for many South African citizens (Asser). If Asser’s assumption is correct, it exemplifies a South African leader denying a scientifically proven epidemic because of the lack of economic prosperity and resources in the given country. In this situation, Mbeki was clearly driven by the ‘radical’ viewpoint; Mbeki’s actions and public beliefs were influenced by the struggle between the rich and the poor states and societies.

To people struggling with HIV/AIDS, anti-retroviral drugs may be a lifesaving solution. Although there is no cure for AIDS, anti-retroviral therapy can reduce complications and prolong a patient’s life (UCSF Health). These drugs, however, are extremely expensive and very profitable for Western pharmaceutical giants, while proving inaccessible to many patients in developing countries. Many argue the unethicality of such astronomical drug prices and support the nationalization of the drug industry (Hirschler). Clearly, however, this could not exist under the capitalist system that dominates American industries. The class struggle between rich and poor international actors is reflected in the high prices of life-saving drugs and the inability of people in developing countries to access necessary treatment.

In an article published in The Journal of Pan African Studies, Teresa Barnes exhibits a unique way of looking at the HIV/AIDS pandemic:

We know about AIDS,” he said, “much more than the uncles who are supposed to care for us and try to teach us about it. But if you don’t care about yourself,” he went on, “it really doesn’t matter how much you know about HIV and AIDS, you are still going to put yourself in situations where you will probably get it.” (Barnes 73)

This quote acknowledges the fact that there are societal factors that contribute to the continued spread of HIV/AIDS. While it is clear that the lack of funding for medical treatments affects the ability of foreign patients to receive treatment for HIV/AIDS, it is a common misconception in America that this is the only reason for the widespread HIV/AIDS pandemic. This misconception is quite telling about the American perception of African countries. The general American population attributes an enduring health crisis occurring in Africa to the lack of economic resources in the affected countries. This idea further exemplifies the ‘radical’ or ‘Marxist’ view in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Westerners immediately attribute foreign struggles to a lack of economic resources, thereby adopting the ‘radical’ perspective. Again, the lack of resources is important to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but there are also other social factors that are generally ignored by the West.

It is clear that there are social factors that influence the spread of HIV/AIDS in developing nations, and that these social factors are often ignored by Western individuals and institutions. This idea can be further exemplified by The Product Red campaign. Product Red is a licensed brand that aims to draw awareness and fundraise for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in eight African countries (RED). According to the Product Red manifesto, “You buy (Red) stuff. We get the money, buy the pills and distribute them. … If they don’t get the pills, they die. We don’t want them to die. We want to give them the pills. And we can. And you can. And it’s easy” (Barnes). It is clear from the manifesto that Product Red markets a quick fix for the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This “quick fix,” provided in terms of medical supplies or economic resources, furthers the divide between the affected African countries and developed nations. The idea that economic resources or medical supplies acts as the primary solution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic suggests the ‘radical’ perspective. The class struggle between the rich and poor states prompts the rich states to respond to the needs of the poor states by providing economic resources, without fully evaluating the implications or efficacy of this aid.

The Failure of One Laptop Per Child

This past semester, my peer Christine Murrain and I produced a podcast about the failure of the international air organization, One Laptop Per Child. The nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) aims to distribute low-cost laptop computers to the “world’s poorest children,” with the intention of providing opportunities for quality access to education. The organization was never as successful in distributing laptops as it had anticipated. The introduction of these laptops, in order to render success, required the training of local teachers, provision of technical support, and the creation of sustainable plans for further distribution. OLPC was deployed prior to the pioneering of these logistical necessities and thus, provided for its expedient downfall. Most recently, global initiatives have decreased as a result of improper infrastructure and increasing costs, amongst other negative side effects. This podcast seeks to evaluate the actions of One Laptop Per Child in terms of their ability to create a sustainable source of education and provision of academic materials. Further, this podcast will explore unforeseen consequences of One Laptop Per Child’s efforts. In addition, this podcast will investigate the legacy of One Laptop Per Child, specifically the impact it has had on organizations striving to provide similar aid to children in developing nations. Finally, this podcast will evaluate how One Laptop Per Child’s evolution may affect the populations served. Although One Laptop Per Child distributes technological products to countries on several continents, this podcast primarily focuses on the laptops distributed to students in African countries.

To listen to our podcast or read the transcript, please visit the following link: http://theurgetohelp.com/podcasts/the-failure-of-one-laptop-per-child/

Arabic Calligraphy

While admiring some Arabic artwork, I discovered some beautiful pictures that seemed to be made completely from words. Intrigued, I decided to research this artistic form. I discovered that this artistic style is known as Arabic calligraphy. This style originated from Islamic leaders’ desire to avoid using images to represent God or his creations. In Arabic culture, calligraphy is considered to be infused with religious significance due to the artwork being created from the same alphabet as the Qur’an. Due to these beliefs, calligraphy is used in almost all forms of Islamic religious expression to this day.

The different types of scripts that can be distinguished by their particular characteristics. For example, Kufic writing, which is more commonly found in mosques in the western Arab world and ancient coins, can be identified by a somewhat geometric style and their focus on horizontal lines. Today, Kufic writing is primarily used for decoration.

The cursive styles are more legible and easier to write than Kufic. There were originally six different scripts. However, due to a lack of record in ancient texts, they are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish and study. The most common style is Naskh which was eventually used for the Qur’an and is the basis of modern print. Other scripts include Tawqi’ and Muhaqqaq, each of which have miniature versions, Riqaa’ and Rihani respectively. Tawqi was used primarily to sign official acts. Muhaqqaq was originally used to duplicate loose sheets of the Qur’an and describe particularly well-executed calligraphy.

The style of calligraphy I find the most fascinating is calligram. Calligrams are human-like figures, animals with religious significance, or various man-made objects formed using written words like Allah and Muhammad woven into each other. Apparently, this practice is connected to Muslim mysticism and is found in many other countries surrounding the Arab world such as Turkey, old Persia, and India. Unfortunately, professional calligraphers do not usually acknowledge calligrams as “authentic” calligraphy. However, this form of expression continues to be very popular. Calligrams and Arabic calligraphy have expanded to the west due to its elegance and beauty. I’ve always been captivated by the allure of calligraphers’ art and hope I can recreate some of their designs in the future.