Diversity: The One Thing Brazilians Have in Common

   Source:  http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/your-brazil-photos/#/festival-dresses-bahia_28594_600x450.jpg 

Brazilians are a spectacularly diverse race of people, so 
one might assume that they are not easily fazed by foreign customs or traditions.However, one facet of foreign life can completely throw the most multicultural Brazilian – the ‘ethnicity’ box on an application form.

The Brazilian ancestry is a blend of indigenous Indian,
colonial European and slave-trade African, which inevitably leads to difficulties categorizing individual Brazilians into ethnic groups. This collision of race and culture has led to a society in which diversity is celebrated rather than the culture of segregation and mistrust the multicultural US experiences.

Brazilian author Gilberto Freyre has succinctly
summarized the benefits this has brought to the country. “Fraternal spirit is stronger among Brazilians thanracial prejudice, colour,class or religion.”It would be foolish to think, of course, that Brazil is aracial utopia. Darker-skinned citizens are underrepresented in positions ofpower and authority - and their lighter-skinned compatriots make up themajority of the elite. Yet there is barely a country in the world that does nothave a marginalised minority or two, and a 2010 Racial Equality Act has takensteps in the right direction to remedying this. 

The real benefits of such a mixed-race race of people lie in 
its culture. The most obvious example of this is samba, the Brazilian musical style. Drawn from indigenous andAfrican musical styles, it spans racial and cultural divides and has become a symbol of national unity. Consider the difference from the polarized US music scene, where hip-hop and R & B is considered ‘black’ music and country and rock music is considered ‘white’ – despite their shared roots. 

Football also bridges both class and race, being far and 
away the most popular sport. Teams comprising darker and lighter-skinned player have been around for over 70 years – no players had to endure the monkey chants or bananas their European colleagues faced. Brazil, the original melting pot, is an example to the worldand especially those who rail against immigration, that cultures can coexist and come together with spectacular results.

Nathan Davies   23.02.12

Action not Words For Syria 

Source: news.sky.com
With Christian, Muslim, Alawite, Sunni, Druze, Shia all hoping for their own revolutions, what can be done to stop civil war and create peace in Syria? What began as a pro-democratic uprising against an authoritarian government regime, arguablyhas lost direction and been convoluted by religious differences. Edward Luck, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, told the UN News Centre yesterday that: “There are signs that the nature of the conflict has changed, and that is very worrisome,” He said he believed it had become “More of a sectarian conflict,” with targeted attacks against certain religious groups. Paul Wood from the BBC, who has followed the Free Syrian Army (FSA)- in Homs -gave an appropriate description of the escalation in Syria. He reported the kidnapping by the FSA of Yousseff Hannah, a corporal, then- six Sunnis being kidnapped (Yousseff’s relatives), which was counter acted by the Bashar al-Assad government regime, with 20 Christians kidnapped. Paul Wood said: “The longer this continues, the more bodies pile up, the greater the desire for revenge on both sides. Civil war is not inevitable. But Homs today could be Syria tomorrow.” The Sectarianism in Syria should not be a reason for the UN to justify their decision to take a back seat and do nothing. While religion can cause divisions, all religions and sects are ultimately fighting the same battle for freedom and democracy. Will America and Britain step up and do their world policing? Sir Mark Lyall-Grant the UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative addressed the UN General Assembly on Monday. “The people of Syria justifiably feel that the United Nations has shamefully abandoned their cause. We must, as individual member states and collectively, send them a clear signal that this is not the case. We must redouble our efforts to put an end to the violence in Syria.”Is supporting the FSA just going to prolong the conflict, add to the death toll and complicate political and religious differences further? What should be done? Stephanie Edwards 23.02.12

From Wall Street to Europe:  The Occupy protests
The European Parliament. Source: Laura Owen
On the 17th September 2011 Occupy Wall Street began, with thousands of protestors descending on Manhattan’s financial district. The protestors were objecting to the 2008 Wall Street bailout, which left banks able to claim ridiculous profits while American taxpayers endured job insecurity and high taxes.

The movements quickly spread to other countries, with people worldwide deciding that they too were unhappy with the situation. Occupy protests were set up in most major cities in the UK. The protests quickly became one of the biggest stories of 2011 but the UK government paid relatively little attention, presumably deciding that it was a problem for the banks, not them.

Brussels was hard hit by the financial crisis. The CEO of the nationalised Dexia bank lived at a Brussels hotel three days a week despite living in Brussels and the resulting bailout was estimated to cost 5000 Euros per taxpayer. Yet when asked about the problem, a spokesperson for the European Commission responded “how does that concern us?” Individual MEPs I have spoken to at the European Parliament do not have an opinion on this subject either.

Since the crisis not a single person has been indicted or convicted and faith in financial systems worldwide has not been restored. Occupy protests in the UK and Europe are being shut down and the protestors are being left with a bad name.

Site of the Bristol Occupy protest. Source: http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Bailiffs-evict-sole-man-Occupy-Bristol-protest/story-15098002-detail/story.html

In Bristol, College Green was the site of one of the largest Occupy protests. At the beginning of this month however the protestors were told to leave. Protestors duly packed up their belongings and left, promised to pay for the damage to the site and helped with the clean up. The protests were at times a nuisance to people in the surrounding area but isn’t that the point of a demonstration? Perhaps if action was taken on the reasons behind the camps then people would not have taken to the streets in such high numbers.

I am not condoning all Occupy demonstrations. Some saw violence, criminal damage and sexual assaults. Some were far from peaceable so broke the law. Some went too far and the people responsible should be accountable for their actions. A few uninformed people gave all demonstrations a bad name.

So now Occupy protests worldwide are being shut down and the protestors are no happier and no major legislation has yet been passed to stop these banking practices. Demonstrators have either been peaceful so largely ignored or been violent so been prosecuted. The protests have seemingly accomplished nothing. Talk of “Re-Occupy” protests is spreading. But surely after the unsuccessful first wave of protests it is time to draw the line and reassess the ways in which the general public can ‘fight’ the banks? Of course, such ways may not exist.  

Laura Owen 09.02.12

Generation Recession: The Recruitment Paradox Dole Queue. Source: kikitobin.wordpress.com

Any graduate job seeker at the moment cannot have failed to notice how pretty much every 3 out of 5 jobs going at the moment are in recruitment. This job title, along with its popular pseudonyms: “head hunter”, “research executive” and “you dun find the job persons job” are clogging up the jobsites like a sewer blockage.
I understand that recruiters are necessary in specialist fields, as they need to be trained to identify certain skills and have a decent knowledge of the specific field; however, when the said specialist field is, in fact, recruitment... things start to get a little bit silly. What you have – and I know this is happening because it’s already happened to me twice in the month that I have been looking for a job – is recruiters recruiting recruiters to recruit recruiters who, in turn, recruit recruiters to recruit recruiters. It is nothing short of a baffling ouroboros of recruitment that is so ripe for parody I have absolutely no idea how anyone in the business of recruitment can take themselves even remotely seriously.
The thing is, these recruiter recruiters can earn an absolute mint from the get go (if they are good enough), inputting an absolute shed load of money into the economy without having actually achieved anything more tangible than self-replication. Could it be that this silly industry is actually supporting the whole British economy? If so, we best get some recruiter recruiter recruiters out to Spain and Greece ASAP before it’s too late.

Nick Chowdrey 09.02.12

'Honour Killing': Product of Religion or Culture? Protest against 'honour' killing. Picture from learn-about-islam.com.

The life sentences given to an immigrant family from Afghanistan by the Canadian Judiciary last Sunday, have raised controversial questions on cultural and religious integration in the West.
Mohammed Shafia 58, his wife Tooba Mohammed and their son Hamed denied ‘honour killing’ family members: Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13 and Shafia’s first wife, in his polygamous marriage, Rona Amir Muhammad, 52.
Speaking out on the topic, Nazira Naz Tareen, Founder and past president of Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organisation said, to the National Post- that it is a cultural not religious issue and Islam is not responsible for such ‘honour killings.’ Just as Christianity is not held responsible for cases of violence from Christians:
“The Qur’an says if you kill one human being, it’s like you’ve killed all of humanity,” she says. “If you save one human being, it’s like you’ve saved all of humanity…it’s totally, totally cultural and it’s totally against the teachings of Islam.”
Aisha Gill, Guardian journalist, suggested the cultural and religious implications convoluted and diminished what was fundamentally oppression and domestic violence against all women:
“…By focusing on the subject of honour, such violence is too often explained away by cultural stereotypes – allowing society to dismiss these cases as something that only happens in minority communities with their "outdated" notions of justice. This allows us to completely overlook that, first and foremost, these cases are of violence against women, and the concept of honour is being used to legitimate the continued oppression of women.”
Others argue crimes committed for honour have significant importance to religion and believe there are fundamental differences between common cases of domestic violence crimes and honour crimes.
Philis Chelser, writer for the Middle East Quarterly suggests: “When a husband murders a wife, too often law enforcement chalks  the matter up to domestic violence…Honour killings are, however, distinct from wife battering and child abuse. Analysis of more than fifty reported honour killings shows they differ significantly from more common domestic violence.”
Do you think honour killing is a religious or cultural phenomenon?
Stephanie Edwards 06.02.12

The Secret to South Korea’s Success

South Korea is a famously beautiful country blessed with miles of wonderful coastline, but the biggest jewel in the national crown is surely its education system. In a worldwide 2010 study, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked South Korea highest for both maths and reading[1]. This is a truly remarkable achievement for a country that in the 1960s was recovering from war and dependent on foreign donations. 82% of Korean students now go on to study at higher education level, a testament to the focus and ambition of Korea.

Yet the system is not perfect as many observers have become alarmed at the heavy pressure parents and teachers pile on students to achieve the highest grades possible. Eun-mi Kim, 20, does not have fond memories of the exams she had to take to reach university. “Every day and night, my mind was always on - study. I just wanted the examinations to be over. My parents were very firm that I would do well.”

There are also fears that the sheer number of students at college saturates the job market with graduates, prompting President Lee to claim that for some students, all the money and time spent will be “for nothing[2]”.   

Though the criticisms of this high-pressure environment may carry some weight, one cannot criticize the Korean focus on education. Investment in ‘human capital’ has produced a flourishing democracy, a well-informed citizenry and an education system that draws jealous looks from across the globe. The economic benefits that education has brought to a small crowded land bereft of natural resources cannot be ignored.

The UK certainly stands to learn from the Korean focus on academia – poorer children in the UK can have little aspiration towards further learning. In South Korea, parents who were denied the opportunity of university are desperate for their children to have what they didn’t.

Eun-mi, now studying Politics at Warwick University, is now glad of her upbringing. “(My education) has given me a chance to do things my grandparents could never have dreamed of. I think I am very lucky to have been born in Korea.”


[1] http://www.oecd.org/

[2] http://chronicle.com/article/After-Decades-of-Expansion/129896/

Nathan Davies  02.02.2012

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