Wednesday, January 08, 2014

GINS Post #5: Rights? Freedoms? Charters?

From what I can see, the problem isn't whether or not they have a Constitution. In fact, the Constitution of Afghanistan appears to outline fundamental human rights and freedoms, and shares many, many values as those outlined in our constitution. 

So why are all these issues still present? I believe it comes down to the application of their constitution, and the efficiency of the government's power. Like it or not, the Taliban and similar forces still have a strong hold on how things work in Afghanistan, and the Constitution can only do so much when such powerful forces see no need to abide by it.

Discrimination, lack of justice, and overall corruption of basic human rights and freedoms (especially for women) were all prominent issues in Thunder Over Kandahar, and these issues are also seen again and again in the news and in other media and publications. These issues are going on, and yet the Constitution of Afghanistan says these shouldn't be present. Words in a document are only of so much value. The key is to have a government that supports and enforces their constitution, and a nation without powerful forces working against it.

In Afghanistan, the innocent are just as much victims as those who do bad. Not only are they not safe, they are prosecuted.

Let's take a second and compare with Canada's charter. If Afghanistan had the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it probably wouldn't make a difference. It might even make things worse. Why? Our Charter reflects the western worldview and our values, not that of Afghanistan. Gender equality, life, liberty: these are very western values. And in our Charter, they are expressed in a very western way. Furthermore, Afghanistan has a decent Constitution, outlining rights, freedoms, and other guidelines to a democratic society. It's just not actually applied. So if Canada's Charter was applied in Afghanistan, we might actually see these issues being resolved.

Somehow, I don't think that's going to happen any time soon...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GINS Post #4/Consumerism Mash-up

Connecting my GINS novel to consumerism and economics is a weird thing. Why? Because the book is dealing with women who have been stripped of their rights. Which means they have essentially been pushed out of their society's economy. It's a whole new perspective on economics, and one that I struggle to identify with. One thing, however, that the book does make clear is the poor quality of life these girls are facing. This brings me to the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. 
 Basically, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs outlines what humans need in order to achieve self-fulfillment. Without the bottom levels, the attributes above can not be achieved. By looking at the pyramid, you'll see that basic needs form the foundation. Food, water, warmth, rest, security, and safety. For girls in Afghanistan, food and water are compromised. Rest is unpredictable. Security and safety are nearly nonexistent. They are forced into marriage, raped, exploited, even murdered. As if this weren't enough, physicians and hospital beds are scarce, especially since treatment for women is even harder to come by.

Without these basic needs, afghan women don't really have the chance to move beyond that. As laid out by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, creating, accomplishing, and belonging can only come when one is adequately surviving. And when one isn't even adequately surviving, what does that say about the economy and its effect on quality of life? Well, maybe it's just me, but I don't think the economy is helping their case too much.

So, what's the solution? First I want you to take a look at this video:
We have a situation. Women rights and exploitation. What's the cause? Poverty. What's the solution? Education. Education... economic systems...

Social programs! If women are to achieve a better life, the government of Afghanistan needs to adopt a way of educating females so that they have the power to stand up for themselves and avoid exploitation. What Afghanistan needs is a reconsideration of its taxation model. Primarily, the part about where the taxes are going. You can't solve the issue of women treatment unless you are willing to invest, both economically and socially. For the government, the first step is directing funds towards education, through social programs! To improve the quality of life for all citizens. For women. For a better future.

Friday, November 15, 2013

GINS: Roundtable #2!

Check out my previous GINS posts to see what this is all about!

Here is the second roundtable discussion.

Enjoy :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

GINS: Roundtable!

This post is part of the Global Issues Novel Study (GINS). If you are totally confused by that, check out this or this.

It's time for a roundtable! A.k.a. a conversation with 2 or 3 peers about our novel study books. The goal was to talk about the literature and issues we were studying.

To view the roundtable, click here!

Litspiration Challenge: An Abundance of Katherines
It is time for another litspiration challenge! This time, my project is on An Abundance of Katherines, which is by the legendary John Green. Check out the synopsis on Goodreads for some background :).

Analysis of visual
So. What the heck is this? For my litspiration challenge, I created a unique visual. I took a key setting from the novel, and illustrated it by using quotes that reflect the meaning of this setting (at least in my head).
         As Colin (the protagonist) and Lindsey (a main character) get to know each other more, they start to speculate over the idea of “mattering”. Colin struggles with this concept constantly throughout the book, but it is with Lindsey that the idea is truly explored.
         Lindsey often struggles internally, and so she discovered a cave where she goes whenever she wants to escape.

Chapter 14, Page 147:
"So what do you do here?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's too dark to read. I guess you could get a head lamp or something, but other than that-"
"No, I just sit here. When I was a nerd, I came here to be somewhere where no one would find me. And now-I dunno, I guess the same reason."

         Eventually, Lindsey shares this secret hideaway with Colin, and it is there that they really wonder about the idea of mattering. In my mind, this setting had a symbolic meaning: these thoughts were hidden and unsure how to show themselves, and so this is reflected by them being in a hidden cave. Invisible yet very much present. The concept of mattering can be seen so differently by different people, and by some it isn’t even seen. With this we have the rock face, hiding the cave, and being seen as a challenge to tackle, hiding the deep thoughts.

Chapter 14, Page 145:
"       They walked in silence for a long time through dense, flat brush with thin trees rising straight and high all around them. The trail became increasingly steep, zigzagging up the hill, until they finally came to a rocky outcropping perhaps fifteen feet high, and Lindsey Lee Wells said, "Now comes the rock climbing."
         Colin looked up at the craggy face of the stone. There are probably people who can successfully negotiate their way up that rock, he thought, but I am not one of them. "No way," he said. She turned back toward him, her cheeks flushed and glistening with sweat. "I'm kidding." She scampered up a wet, mossy boulder, and Colin followed. Immediately, he saw a narrow, chest-high crack covered over by a spiderweb. "See, I'm taking you here because you're the only guy I know who's skinny enough. Squeeze on through," she said.
     Colin pushed the spiderweb aside-sorry, Charlotte. He turned sideways, crouched down, and inched away from the fading light outside."

Analysis of choices within the visual
Within the visual, there are lots of discrete choices I made that actually have significant meaning.
  • ·      In the foreground, the brush is the only thing not made out of words. This was intentional! I decided that since the brush is not part of the symbolic idea of mattering, it should stand out. It is a gateway, leading up to the scene, but not an actual part of it.
  • ·      Rising up from the bottom of the page are tall, thin trees like those described in the book. To again reflect that they are not exactly part of the main idea, I used them to write out the part of the book that explains the setting, rather than quotes that relate to the idea I was exploring.
  • ·      At the very top of the image, there is about an inch of text that goes from blue to orange. Again, this section was narrative text rather than meaningful quotes, to separate it from the heart of the image. The colours were intended to portray a sunset, for two reasons. First of all, the first time they go into the cave is evening, and the second is after dark, so this shows the transition. Secondly, the idea of a sunset reflects the transitions Lindsey and Colin made in the cave setting, and it fits with the fact that in this place, they both changed.
  • ·      The rock face is made up of a ton of quotes, and they are all quotes that explore the idea of mattering (see below). If you were to think of the cave as the inner being, then the rock face is the mental struggles that provide the face to who and what the inner being is. Rather than just going top to bottom, I wrote each quote as a little chunk, to show the uneven-ness and in-predictable quality of these kinds of thoughts.
  • ·      If you look closely, you’ll see one quote running down the rock in black. “I figured something out. The future is unpredictable.” (J.G., pg. 213). This quote is purposely discrete yet prominent, as Colin’s realization is the same: hidden to the mind yet always there, and once discovered, greatly obvious.
  • ·      In the bottom right, there is the boulder that Lindsey and Colin use to reach the cave entrance. The quote that makes up this boulder was chosen very carefully. My hope was that it would share a meaning that was constructive, and something that lifts someone up and moves them forward, getting them over obstacles (mental or physical). In the book, this boulder allows them to reach the cave without having to complete the impossible feat of rock climbing. The quote is what allowed Colin to overcome the seemingly endless battle with the matter of mattering.
  • ·      Last but not least, the entrance to the cave itself. To make it stand out, I used a quote that was still meaningful, but less about mattering. Turned on its side, this final quote is intended to share a new idea: one that is hidden, confusing, and unanswerable.

Analysis of quotes (approximately top to bottom):
As I have already said, the idea that I was exploring with the quotes in my visual was the concept of mattering and leaving behind a trace on the world. So I’ll explain what each of the quotes means to me in regards to this concept!

·      "You matter as much as the things that matter to you do." (J.G., pg. 200)
o  The meaning that I extracted from this quote was that your external meaning to the world directly reflects your internal ideas of mattering and how you perceive the world and it’s mattering.

·      "I just want to do something that matters. Or be something that matters. I just want to matter. " (J.G., pg. 94)
o  What really moved me about this quote was the desperation. I can really relate to it: the unexplainable need to do something important and make a mark on the world.

·      "The future will erase everything- there's no level of fame or genius that allows you to transcend oblivion. The infinite future makes that kind of mattering impossible." (J.G., pg. 213)
o  To me, this quote states how there are limits. In terms of mattering, there are things that we have no control over, and we can only hope for so much. Time is the ultimate controller of “mattering”.

·      "I was thinking about this tonight, actually, that maybe I want strangers to think I'm cool since people who actually know me don't." (J.G., pg. 68)
o  This quote relates to me quite deeply, as I’m not exactly the most popular kid, and so I can really relate to that idea of wanting to star on the big scale, because the small scale isn’t turning out so well.

·      "What matters to you defines your mattering." (J.G., pg. 212)
o  I believe this quote can be interpreted in many different ways, and there is no right or wrong way. For me, it means that the things you care about and invest yourself into, are the things that determine how much the world will care about you and invest thought into you.

·      "And yes, again, that was it exactly. A retyper and not a writer. A prodigy and not a genius." (J.G., pg. 94)
o  The phrase “A retyper and not a writer” is very powerful in my mind, as it metaphorically summarizes the disappointment in simply thinking and writing and not actually creating and doing.

·      "I figured something out. The future is unpredictable." (J.G., pg. 213)
o  What I adore about this quote is how blunt it is. The message is so obvious, yet when Colin says it in the book, it’s a big step for him. More than a realization, it’s a phrase that signifies Colin letting go.

·      "You're not boring. You've got to stop saying that, or people will start believing you." (J.G., pg. 139)
o  In the prospect of mattering, what I pull away from this quote is that the key to how others view you is how you view yourself.

·      "Because personally I think that mattering is a ****-poor idea. I just want to fly under the radar, because when you start to make yourself into a big deal, that's when you get shot down. The bigger a deal you are, the worse your life is." (J.G., pg. 94)
o  Along with the thrill of this concept of “mattering”, there are of course drawbacks too. In the novel, Lindsey’s original view is this quote. Summed up in my mind, it’s saying that mattering means putting yourself up to risks.

·      "I will get forgotten, but the stories will last. And so we all matter- maybe less than a lot, but always more than none." (J.G., pg. 213)
o  I believe the message of this quote is that we can’t always actively decide our own mattering. A lot of it comes from our actions and the choices we make, rather than our intentional attempts at “mattering”.

·      "What is the point of being alive if you don't at least try to do something remarkable?" (J.G., pg. 33)
o  This quote is really personal for me, as I have this view on life. I feel like I owe something to the world, and that I must make use of this spot I was given on earth.

·      "How do you stop being terrified of getting left behind and ending up by yourself forever and not meaning anything to the world?" (J.G., pg. 132)
o  In relation to the previous quote, this one questions how anyone could let go and not feel the need to matter, which again is a question that I find myself asking.

·      "He found himself thinking that maybe stories don't just make us matter to each other- maybe they're the only way to the infinite mattering he'd been after for so long. And Colin thought: Because like say I tell someone about my feral hog hunt. Even if it's a dumb story, telling it changes other people just the slightest bit, just as living the story changes me. An infinitesimal change. And that infinitesimal change ripples outward- ever smaller but everlasting." (J.G., pg. 213)
o  The important quote on the boulder J. This quote sums up Colin’s journey trying to matter, or at least in figuring out how to matter. And, as I’ve said before, a lot of it is a matter of him letting go and letting fate happen.

Last but not least, there was one hidden idea that I was trying to share in the creation of my visual. By communicating through quotes, I was discretely hoping to share the fact that these thoughts are things that really can't be summarized in words. I wrote out tons of quotes on that page, but really, the meaning has to come from your own brain. You have to find it yourself. You have to be it.
I encourage you to check out my poetry anthology, (check out my previous post to learn all about it) which contains some poems, both found and written, many of which relate to the ideas explored in my litspiration challenge. Specifically, I suggest reading: Later Life 17 by Christina Rossetti, and Write Written Wrote by Julia C.

Hope you enjoyed :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GINS: The First 50 Pages :)

Check out my previous post for some background info on this post!

To start off the novel study, our task was to read the first 20% of our chosen novel, which for me meant the first 50 pages from the book I chose, Thunder over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay.

As I have learned from both the book summary and the small section I have read, Thunder over Kandahar explores the challenges that Afghan women face. Constantly under threat from the Taliban, women can only talk to men who are relatives, they must be accompanied by a male relative at all times outside, and they must cover their bodies by wearing a hijab/burka"Do not meet a man's gaze. Do not be alone with a boy who is not a relative. Do not let any skin show. There were many do nots. Mother was teaching her what was halal, or correct for Muslims, and what was haraam, or unacceptable..." (pg. 15, S.M.). Along with the constant dangers of their land-mine dotted society, women know nothing but the lack of freedom.

Since this novel study is focusing on global issues, the requirement for our reading choice was that the book focused on a global issue. More importantly, it was to be something we could see ourselves developing passion for, in hopes of taking action. This led me to choosing Thunder over Kandahar, as the prejudice against women is an issue that I feel strongly about, and I can make personal connections, and compare and contrast lifestyles.

Before starting the novel, I was definitely not a stranger to the world issues of inequality and lack of freedom for females. Because I am a Girl and The Girl Effect are two women's-rights organizations that I am aware of and that have sparked a fire inside me about the exploitation of women.

Now that I am 50 pages into the book, I am really starting to wonder the extent to which these women acknowledge inequality and the unfairness of it all. But then again, some people think it's ethically correct. I find it almost incomprehensible how values and morals can very so much and how discrimination and exploitation can be considered right.

So far, two main female characters have been introduced: Tamanna and Yasmine. Their places in society vary immensely, yet they find a common bond, and the reader follows them, learning about their family, lifestyle, home, and identity.

This is one of those books where I really want to keep reading, because I already know that the story line has a lot to teach me. I feel like I will grow as a person by reading this book, and so that makes me want to read it more and more!

What's your opinion on books that focus on global issues? Share your thoughts :)

One last thing: I encountered this article while scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I honestly hardly believed it could be true, until I tried the searches myself:

Image from: