Monday, 20 December 2010

Update & thoughts on Anti-Americanism

My beloved supervisor passed away. The battle with cancer was, in his wife's words, mercifully brief. His memorial service was lovely--they played The Beatles' "In My Life", one of my favorite songs and so fitting for this Liverpudlian :) I'll miss him deeply, as will everybody who knew him. But one of the last things he said to me as my supervisor was "Get on with it." So I will, and I'll dedicate it to him and try to make him proud.

We're getting ready to leave for Christmas break. I'm really looking forward to it--it's been a rough start to the PhD, and I think a trip to the States will give me some inspiration (as I'm researching American PD, after all).

My final bit of work before the break was an essay on anti-Americanism. I'll be using it as a springboard for my next essay, how anti-Americanism fits into my PD research. My main point is that anti-Americanism is the target of PD--it is what we are battling against in the "battle over hearts and minds." There are different causes of anti-Americanism, and different ways of using PD tools to fight them--so I'll go into all of that in the second essay. But the essential point I want to make is that American Fulbrighters, as cultural ambassadors, have a goal that often gets overlooked: fighting anti-Americanism. The Fulbright mission statement says they're there to promote mutual understanding--overcome stereotypes, create sympathy for the US, make our policies better understood, etc. Anti-Americanism isn't mentioned explicitly, but it's implied as the opposite of mutual understanding. It's mutual misunderstanding.

After 9/11, when we asked "why do they hate us?", some said that the fact we had to ask, the fact we weren't already aware of the offense we'd caused around the world, was reason enough to hate us.
That's why I'm fascinated by the potential of PD...That, and because Phil Taylor inspired me to work in this field.
RIP, Phil...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Academia and atheism...

I just read a passage in one of my books that irritated me and got me thinking about why so many academics seem to be atheists/agnostics (and especially why some seem to find pleasure in mocking faith...). Before blogging, I googled it (as usual) and found an actual study on this topic written by none other than my brother-in-law's cousin, Solon Simmons. It felt really weird to be doing research and see the name of a guy I actually know--been to his house, had dinner, played with his kids, etc. His research found that despite the stereotype that academics are atheist or agnostic, the majority of professors are actually religious believers. Maybe those who mock the faithful are just louder than the rest?

Anyway, the passage that irked me in the first place:
"Despite America's self-image as the primary twenty-first century civilizing force, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe in angels and miracles and, among countries where people believe religion to be very important, America is closer to Pakistan and Nigeria than to France or Germany." (Gary Younge, Who Are We--and Should it Matter in the 21st Century?, 2010, p. 6)

Ok, so you can't be a 'civilizing force' and also hold religious beliefs? Why are those 2 things mutually exclusive? Albert Schweitzer actually included sprituality in his definition of civilization:
"It is the sum total of all progress made by man in every sphere of action and from every point of view in so far as the progress helps towards the spiritual perfecting of individuals as the progress of all progress." (The Philosophy of Civilization).

Civilization is about progress. Why does Gary Younge equate "progress" with atheism, with not believing in angels and miracles, with religion not being 'very important'?