The theme in class this week is Justice and Political economy, so we have a few guest speakers coming in to talk to us about this topic. Today we had Linshuang Lu, who is a graduate of the Penn Wharton School and a current consultant with Praxis Consulting Group. She begin by having us pair up and share a memory about money with our partner. I chose to tell my partner about how my little brother has been super lucky because he is always finding money on the ground and I wish that some of that good luck would rub off on me! She then wanted us to think about what is our most valuable item (that we own) and share it with the class. This exercise had me thinking about my family, but then I went back to the question and knew that I did not actually "own" my family, so I decided on a material object.
From these questions, Linshuang dove into accounting. She taught us how to read the main financial statements: Income Statement and the Balance Sheet. I learned that the income statement is the statement of activity or flow, while the balance sheet is a statement of financial position or stock. In short, she described an income statement as a track of activity over a period of time and a balance sheet as a snapshot in time. An income statement consists of revenue, with salary and interest, expenses (rent, utilities, interest, and food), as well as surpluses and deficits. The end of year balance sheet includes assets (checking, savings, furniture, house), liabilities (bills payable, mortgage, other debt), and your net worth (home equity and liquid net worth, which is how much you own less how much you owe. The term "wealth" is used to describe net worth, but in newspapers they incorrectly use "wealth" to mean income. Using income to describe someone's wealth is actually quite vague, and Linshuang said that we should look at the financial network, which is basically separating out home equity from liquid network. I am really glad that she was able to come and talk to us about accounting because I have yet to take an economy course in high school and I am quite less knowledgeable about this subject than I need to be.
For the afternoon session, Prof. Lamas presented the very special guest speaker Arnold Farr. Farr's specialty is Liberation Philosophy, which is actually a fairly new theology that began in about 1969. Three men by the names of James Cone, Enrique Dussel, and Gustavo Guitierez developed this philosophy because they had questions that no other philosophers seemed to be able to answer. After giving us an introduction into his work, Arnold talked to us a lot about the importance of understanding the contexts that surround all of the past and modern philosophical texts from throughout the world. Within this, he discussed how the same text can be used as a tool of oppression or one for liberation, as well as how one text can have both oppressive and liberating qualities. One thing he said that I really liked was that we shouldn't completely disregard ancient texts, even if they seem to be irrelevant to our time period. Instead we should develop our own understanding of freedom and oppression, and look at old texts with a different set of questions in mind. Every text is useful and relevant in someway at the time of their publication, and it is the many written dialogues of philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Walter Benjamin, and Hegel Frichte that have shaped our way of understanding and thinking about the world we live in today.
The remainder of the afternoon session was spent mostly on oppression and how every philosopher has encountered the struggle of freedom. We talked about how we need to deconstruct our own identities in order to begin fighting for liberation, how we need to form communities of like-minded people when in transition as to not lose sanity, and how in the end of that transformation we need to establish comfort in who we have grown to be. I was telling Arnold how I feel like it will be difficult to convey my new thoughts and concepts to my friends back home, but he stressed that the goal is not to change the minds of others, but that I need to start by focusing on myself. I feel that I have already been going through some sort of identity transformation in the last year or so, and it was reassuring to hear that we all go through this because not many people back home talk about these kinds of things. Even when I try to bring up somewhat of an abstract concept, many of my peers will just wonder why I am even thinking about that question. Arnold really helped me feel more confident with my thought processes; this lecture will definitely be one that will stand out in my mind when I return home.