This morning was the first time in a while that Michael has led our class. Unlike his normal discussion-based teaching style, he focused on presenting several concepts through a PowerPoint. The slides began with Rumsfeld's famous speech about the "Knowns" and "Unknowns" and then transitioned into the ideas that Wendell Berry presented about solving for pattern. Berry's three determined solutions to solving for pattern could be creating a ramifying set of new problems, entering Hellish Symbiosis which is the immediate worsening of problems, or ramifying series of solutions. Michael talked about how we need to recognize the problems within different communities and then figure out how we can find connections between them. The main question of this section was, how do we combine problems, or find their common fault, to make up one solution?
The next topic of discussion was about changing world views in complex adaptive systems. Michael said that major transformations are occurring in all aspects of our world. From science and politics to culture, we talked about how minorities are actually becoming majorities in the human species, while the historically dominant Caucasian male for example is slowly becoming a minority in our world. There is such wide diversity though that we as humans are not able to find common ground and therefore we cannot successfully break away from inequality and injustice. How do we form a pluralistic society where everyone has a voice in this country? We also discussed how reductionism's arrows only point in one direction: down; and how all complex adaptive systems have emergence which complicates maintaining a stable society.
The systems and networks of our own complex systems are all connected, which is something that we do not consider when creating our various laws and economic structures. When looking at capitalism for instance, the way in which we use this system is almost naive in the sense that, to the Capitol, everything is disposable. We only live in the now, and calculate probabilities for future gain rather than focus on how the entire system will need to change once we run our natural resources into ground. So how do we create real change and awareness for the "unknown unknowns" of climate change for example? This society was not created by the people that live in it now, but by the innovators of the past who believed in unlimited resources and an expendable earth. Even so, the youth of this age are the ones who will be taking over responsibility of our planet's future, and I believe we can make a significantly better future for ourselves if we are provided with the knowledge to do so. Society can empower youth to make their own decisions by informing them about the serious reality of our environmental situation. Without the effort of educators and other adults to help raise our awareness, we will not be prepared to face the events of our future. Despite how unpredictable our future is, I still strongly feel that we as youth can make a difference in the way the world has been running for thousands of years, because it is clear that a new system is vital for survival.
From there we jumped into the concepts of uncertainty and understanding. Again, Michael touched on the uncertainty of nature many times, and described the correlation between economic growth and the deterioration of our ecosystems. In short, the idea of sustaining economic growth and continuing to rely on natural resources does not work. Large corporations like Exon Mobile have such a wealth of power over the political and economic systems of the world that they are not interested in solving problems for the future, but rather figuring out ways to gain more profit. As a consequence of their greed, they are not willing to slow their rapid growth in order to save the plant, because it means that they may lose that power for even a brief moment. On the other hand though, I think this is ridiculous because once the world's resources are eliminated, I feel like their empires will crumble all at once. Therefore, these corporations should be paying their attention to these environmental issues or else their growth with ultimately be their destruction. Instead, they provide momentary relief to the world's economies or ecosystems so that the people continue to trust that the "people in charge" are actually trying, when really this only provides a great deal of false hope.
The afternoon session of class was focused in an entirely different topic, although I suppose there are many connections between the two lectures. While Michael spent time talking to us about reconstructing society and creating a common ground for everyone, our guest speaker, Toorjo TJ Ghose spent his three hours in the issue of sex workers in India. Originally from India, TJ came to the United States on a physics scholarship to study in Ohio, but he realized soon after that he was really interested in topics of social justice. His primary focus today was The Songachi Project (SP) or the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) in Durbar, India.
Initiated in 1992, DMSC started out as a peer-facilitated HIV education project among sex workers in Calcutta, India. Later, in response to community needs, several more community-based programs were added. These currently include HIV clinics, peer educators, a banking cooperation, support services for HIV, a dance-drama troupe, and services to CSW children. This union has grown to not only protect sex workers in India from abuse, but also to provide awareness about safe sex among these people. In fact, since the DMSC began, HIV rates have declined dramatically to less than 1% in these communities, and studies found that 90% of Songachi Project participants used condoms 100% of the time. In contrast to the common practice in the United States of punishing sex workers, the Songachi Projecct works to fight the stigma on these workers and provide them with safer options instead of eschewing the idea of sex as a legitimate world field. Personally, it is difficult to completely understand the fight for sex worker justice because I have grown up with this extremely negative connotation about this activity. However, I think that the work being done in the Songachi Project is important, as they work to turn something negative into a more positive situation.
Within this discussion TJ also talked about who social boundaries used by organizations can actually oppress some of the people that those facilities or groups were intended to help. He introduced us to Taylor and Whittier's Model of Collective Identity which shows a process from boundaries to consciousness and then finally recognition. In this model, "boundaries" are said to delineate out-group from in-group members; "consciousness" infuses identities with meaning; and "negotiation" is when identities are politicized through negotiation with the outside world. However, a complex problem within many movements is how to prioritize their arguments, because posing multiple arguments for negotiation can prevent others from emerging. In this way, stiff boundaries can actually hinder liberty.
By the end of class, we came back around to connect these ideas to the situations of sex workers, and TJ tried to summarize what the Songachi Project was really trying to do. He said that this union is making connections with the sex workers that are not judgmental (moralism), but instead realizing the reality if their situations and making those concrete realities safer. This is a method that I think should be focused on more in this country, because too often we try to abolish an entire system or establishment, without even thinking about ways in which we could work from the inside to actually improve the conditions of that situation; thus changing it's negative standing to a positive and productive one.