Sunday, January 31, 2010

Social Responsibility

I'd like to discuss one of my largest personal convictions and a point made last week at the Rural Sociology Department's Seminar, Rural Sociology in the World Today by speaker Victor Toledo. It is stated over and over again by many authors, teachers and great thinkers including professor and mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn (who by the way is amazing, if you have the time to find some of his books, lectures or meditations),

We are each being called upon to find out who we are and to live that authentically in the service of this world, not just for our particular small-minded benefit.
-From his 2009 Speaking of Faith Podcast on NPR

In his last week's lecture, The Civilization Crisis: the Dilemma between Industrial Agriculture and Agroecology, professor and author Victor Toledo made a clear point that we have fractionated ourselves to the point that we are failing to successfully and effectively organize for the common good of those in need today. We have let apathy and fear take over, giving power to corrupt governments and transnational corporations.

We each have a social responsibility that lies within each of our professions.
We need to break paradigms that no longer function for the greater good of humanity and nature. How will you do this? How are you doing this? In what way will you contribute to the improvement or corrosion of our current and future world and society?

What does this mean? This means that each and every one of us, young, retired, female, male etc. has the responsibility as a human being on this earth to contribute to the safety, harmony and well-being of all things on this planet. This means we will all grow up one day to do something, to own a business, work in the service sector, manufacturing ect. and through that profession, whatever it may be, we have the chance to contribute to a greater good. This might sound sappy and idealistic to a lot of you, but I'm sorry, if we do anything less than make an effort to incorporate actions and social movement that will change our actions of exploitation, the "time is money" mentality, and benefiting ourselves at the cost of others, we won't make it and either will our children. Doctors, housewives, CEOs, nurses, teachers, engineers....we each have our own unique and special ways that we can make a positive difference in this world through our professions.

I would really like to read from the rest of you how in you will make a positive change through your profession, what small or big thing will you contribute? Please comment to this blog post with your response......Thanks!

What will you do?

Last week was the first official week of classes, it's great to be back in the classroom environment because I always learn so much. To kick off this semester (that's 6 months long by the way!!), the department I'm studying in, Rural Sociology, had a week long seminar entitled, "Rural Sociology in the World Today". Lecture topics included "Indigenous Communities and Human Rights", "Neoliberalism and the Economic Agriculture Crisis", "The Civilization Crisis: the Dilemma between Industrial Agriculture and Agroecology" among many other interesting topics. Besides learning more about the current situation of Mexico's rural indigenous and campesino communities, I wrote down a number of great ideas and points many speakers made that I wanted to share with you, some great food for thought. These are things that many people don't think about, but all topics that are of dire important and most importantly things that we all as individual have an important role in-

1. Are we going to transform our society or create a new society and what does the creation process look like?

This is a great question, what will our future look like? It is in our hands. The creation of society begins with the creation of the individual and how the individual constructs identity. Are we able to create new ways of thinking and perceiving the world in order to create the change needed for a more harmonious future? Speaker Victor Toledo suggest three transformational steps for a new society,

1. Change at the personal level of the individual. This means doing "small" things like keeping a compost bin at home, walking to work instead of driving, practicing loving-kindness etc.

2. Retrofitting our homes to be more efficient and sustainable, this includes having energy efficient appliances, creating your own energy, creating systems to harvest water for at home use etc. This is not an option for many people who live in poverty and cannot afford to retrofit their home. For many others, this is a question of priorities.

3. Building a sustainable and peaceful community. This requires an effort to get to know your neighbors, organize and work together to build a safe and green neighbor, town or city.

Toledo believes that social change will come from the people and not politicians, that concerned community members are the ones who will really make the changes needed to create a better future for today as for future generations.

2. A time of crisis is an opportunity for positive change.

We must organize to create social order and movement, but NOT in place of politics. Social movements and politics go hand-in-hand. The neoliberal capital and industrial economic and social systems are falling apart crumb by crumb, we are consuming our finite resources of fossil fuels at a rate so fast that in the near future they will not be an option, we are depleting our oceans of it's life, creating mass soil erosion on every continent and destructing the very ecosystems that filter pollutants and maintain natural order and harmony, our entire global system of food production which is dependent on fossil fuels cannot continue (thus world food crisis), the huge economic and social void between the world's rich and poor continues to widen etc. etc...This is a time where things have to change if we wish to continue living. Some may say this is scary, but I believe that this is the best time to make some real, on the ground change for the better. Our current systems obviously aren't functioning in the benefit of nature and humanity so what are we going to do about it? What path will WE, you and me choose? This is an exciting time to really create radical change and change that comes from the people. We need to create new concepts and look at the world with different eyes. We need to create new definitions of science, of identity, of benefit and profit.

3. The development and rapid growth of capitalism was dependent on the formation and growth modern science and vise-versa.

4. We need to break current paradigms that no longer function.

Example: The modern conventional doctor is essentially an engineer of the human body. We have specialists/experts of all kinds...the individual becomes fractionated. The view of the entirety of the person and body becomes lost. We are machines that become maintained by popping pills to address specific problems when many times the issue is much more complex. Pharmaceutical companies have made a killing from well contributing to the addiction and over prescription by doctors. More and more people have poor health, something needs to change. We cannot ignore that the physical is connected to the emotional, spiritual etc. and that looking at the human body as a machine is not acceptable. This is just one example of social systems that don't work. We each have the power to change this.

5. Social responsibility as individuals (see next blog post for more information).

These are just a few ideas I really liked from the seminar last week and hope you all take the time to contemplate each point and decide how you are going to contribute to the current world situation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Total Disgust

Here is a completely disgusting post I found at the Heritage Foundation's Blog site,

What does this have to do with being an Ambassador of Goodwill? I believe that the following writer is supposedly urging our government to act as an Ambassador of Goodwill. but obviously truly has the expansion of an imperialist agenda in mind-

"Today, the United States began surveying the damage inflicted by a devastating earthquake in Haiti this week. In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake should address long-held concerns over the fragile political environment that exists in the region.

The U.S. government response should be bold and decisive. It must mobilize U.S. civilian and military capabilities for short-term rescue and relief and long-term recovery and reform. President Obama should tap high-level, bipartisan leadership. Clearly former President Clinton, who was already named as the U.N. envoy on Haiti, is a logical choice. President Obama should also reach out to a senior Republican figure, perhaps former President George W. Bush, to lead the bipartisan effort for the Republicans.

While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in dangerous and rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile, the U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti. Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue. Congress should immediately begin work on a package of assistance, trade, and reconstruction efforts needed to put Haiti on its feet and open the way for deep and lasting democratic reforms.

The U.S. should implement a strong and vigorous public diplomacy effort to counter the negative propaganda certain to emanate from the Castro-Chavez camp. Such an effort will also demonstrate that the U.S.’s involvement in the Caribbean remains a powerful force for good in the Americas and around the globe.

To assist Red Cross Relief Efforts, go to

(Post updated on 1/13/10 at 5:08 pm)"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Back to a Little Normalcy

After a three week trip from the tip of Baja California all the way to Tijuana, three weeks in the states visiting family and two weeks showing Miguel the best of Mexico, I'm back in Texcoco ready to pick my classes, start school again, give presentations (one tonight for the Rotarians) and continue my service work!

The past five months here have been amazing and challenging, I've learned so much and have grown professionally as well as personally. After taking a look back at everything that has happened over the past five months, I've been able to make some goals for the last half of my scholarship period here in Mexico.

1. Focus on my service work

-It took me a few months to really find a service project that I was passionate about. The Rotary clubs here are working on a number of projects that are interesting but none of them really fueled my deep passion for grassroots community foods systems and environmental work. After a while, I finally came across an environmental group started by various community members in Texcoco. They welcomed me with open arms into their project and in the past few months of last semester I've been working with them and learning about their community food projects, composting project, recycling and education center and the botanic garden they are planning. Now that I found a group that I'm passionately involved with, I want to put my all in to contributing whatever I can give to their project.

2. Continue with my presentations as an Ambassadorial Scholar

-I have about 1/2 of the required presentations completed for my scholarship and will continue to find opportunities to present at my local clubs, school and community about different topics of interest.

3. Continue to learn from and visit various communities here in Mexico, including my family

Because of great family and friends, I've had the amazing opportunity to take part in getting to know the every day realities being lived here. Out of my nine uncles and aunts living in Mexico, I've only been able to visit two families. This semester I would like to be able to visit the majority of my other family who I have not yet visited and spend time with them. I would also like to visit some of my classmate's families and communities in which they are doing their thesis work to be able to learn more about the rural and agrian lifestyle and challenges first hand. This is a great way for me to compliment what I am learning in class as well as another way I can help break down cross-cultural barriers and contribute to building understating between different groups of people.

4. Don't be so afraid to speak up in class and share my reality and experiences

-Last semester I held myself back many times in class because I was afraid of saying something and having my classmates and teacher not understand me, or of saying something in a way that could sound elitist. I had come to Mexico to listen and learn not to take over discussions. This was my thinking last semester. I was afraid of being a tool of neocolonialism with my words and actions. There were many times when students or teachers had stated their opinion on U.S. politics, daily life and other U.S. realities as facts and many times I wanted to speak up and state my point of view on the topic. Some times I would freeze up and not be able to say anything and other times I would defend myself (ex. when a teacher said all Americans think Obama is a communist or that there are no unemployment benefits in the U.S., among others).

After taking the time to talk to various classmates and share the difficulty I was having between being scared to speak up, worried about being another American spreading anthropocentric and colonial views and wanting to really open up and share my own personal reality and point of view about U.S. politics and life, I was encouraged over and over again to share my ideas in class. My friends and classmates told me that they all know I am not the kind of person trying to spread U.S. colonialism and that sharing my experiences with them in and out of class enriches their lives. That it gives them the opportunity to learn about realities different from their own just as learning from them in class enriches and compliments what I know.

5. Remember that being an Ambassador of Goodwill is 24/7

-This is one of the most important, if not the most important part of my scholarship and time here in Mexico. It's important that I remember my role as an ambassador and that it is a full-time responsibility. Every interaction I have here is an opportunity to break down stereotypes, misunderstanding and fear. Every opportunity is an opportunity to build friendships of peace.

6. Be kind to myself

- I realized that over the past five months, I've been very hard and judgmental of myself. I've compared myself, my language skills and level of understanding to that of my peers. I've let many things get to me and get me down. This time around I am going to do a better job of accepting myself at the level I'm at, not compare myself, accept situations as neither negative or positive while still being sensitive and open to my surrounds and those around me.

Taking a look back at my first months here and looking at what I've done well and what I need to improve, I feel reenergized and passionate to continue my journey of learning and communication. I feel that if I stick to these main goals, I can really make a positive impact in serving others and helping bring cross-cultural understanding.

PICTURES: of Miguel's visit to Mexico-

Ruins of Monte Alban, of the Zapote people, one of Mexico's most vast prehispanic ruins site. Also one of the earliest cities in Mesoamerica, and at Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's house in Coyocan standing next to photographs of our twins?;)