Rethinking international affairs: A call for a multidisciplinary approach

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Africa will continue to be a basket case because we continue to look at the entire continent that way, as if it were one homogenous country without the plethora of nuances that exist in reality. The very word Africa invokes images of television campaigns with malnourished, emaciated sub-saharan children covered in fleas and flies -- things that are supposed to provoke our sympathies. Celebrities hold benefit concerts to raise money for material donations that destroy the local economies of African nations, putting their populations and governments on a path of dependency that essentially takes away the impetus for state-directed improvements in social and economic infrastructure.To blame them for their own fates is to fail to recognize the past colonial legacies and the current global division of labour that depends on the existence of poverty and low-skill labour capital in several regions of the world in order to thrive.


Flickr photo by E_Tavares

Take, for example, aboriginal communities in Canada and the way they are still discriminated against despite the massive subsidies and exemptions they receive. There is no knowing whether such preferential treatment is meant for their good or just as a device to keep them pacified. Often, bigoted comments about others are made as a statement that one's self is the opposite of what one is complaining about, and that that person wishes for the other to be otherwise. But once such said persons begin to resist stereotypes and prove them wrong, we have a tendency to reinforce old stereotypes to push them back down, as in a world of inequality, we have positions of prestige and advantage to defend. Nothing hurts like patronization does, it's like a special kind of pain that never goes away.  For many aboriginal children in Canada, they grow up feeling insulted by the benefits that they receive, but at the same time it's like dangling a piece of candy in front of a child. Many of them grow up in communities where their family members and extended family members are alcoholics and heavy drug users, and probably have a few with criminal records.  As Canadians always seem to do, we always forget about the cultural and psychological persecution they faced through the Residential Schools, or the fact that North American aborigines' enzymes make it difficult for their bodies to resist addictions unlike their European overlords who swept upon their shores.  This doesn't presume that their children are destined for the same fate, but society looks at them in a way that makes them believe that that is simply the pre-ordained role they are supposed to fulfill. So when they go to school, they are looked at differently. The well-meaning patronisation by their teachers cause other students to resent them.  Sometimes, people don't want to be treated as special, they just want to be treated like everyone else -- as normal people.  

What I call for is transcendence away from the way we currently operate our minds and approaches in this world.  What I mean by this simply is the desire to constantly question why we do what we do and why we do them the way we do in this world.  Some might refer to this as post-modernism, but I think society has matured to a point where we can even call this age post-post-modernism. Stepping away from greed and materialism may perhaps be one step. Detaching one-self from that mindless game is certainly one step, but it's foolish to step away completely. People have responsibilities for their own well-being, and with a family in the mix comes even more responsibility. 

When too many interests and dependents are at play, it leaves less room for morals. The important thing is that we, as a civilization, continue to attempt to thrive as mortal beings. We just need to make sure that our minds always have a healthy dose of empathy and compassion in everything that we do.  Understanding and accepting our limitations as human beings while undertaking our worldly responsibilities, but always striving for better.

This means always adopting new frameworks, understanding that things are more political than they seem, more economic than they seem, more business/commerce (this is broad, I know) than they seem, more psychology than they seem, more anthropology than they seem, more medicine than they seem, or more physics than they seem (I won't mention law here as some may like, because laws are synthetic creations and so are the concepts of 'natural rights'.  If a right was natural, you'd wouldn't have to create laws to credibly enforce them. Such an exercise would be be like setting up Locke or Mill and Hobbes for a coc fight).  Yes, these are typical college disciplines, and yes they are all interlinked.

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