Friday, 30 March 2012

U.S. and China

The U.S. - China Policy Foundation was founded in 1995 and 'is a non-partisan, non-profit, non-advocacy organization that promotes a greater understanding between American and Chinese policymakers, researchers, and government officials.' Based in Washington D.C. the organisation aims to provide accurate information on the relationship between the U.S. and China, therefore the website is likely to be reliable, although a donation page is present.
The website contains a news section and the most recent 2012 story states that both the U.S. and China were among the fifty countries who attended the 'Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.' The presence of both countries demonstrates how nuclear war is not encouraged by either side and both countries realise the devastation that nuclear weapons could potentially cause. This viewpoint is likely to have occurred due to the impact that the Cold War had on both nations, as paranoia became extreme and the end of the world was a possibility.
However, the relationship between the U.S. and China is by no means perfect. 'Obama has repeatedly called for China to take a firmer stance on North Korea, accusing China’s government of “rewarding bad behavior [and] turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations."' If China were to take a 'firmer stance,' it worries that as a consequence, it would 'cause a flood of refugees to cross the border into China.' This concern represents a strict, communist China, seeing as their population growth is controlled by the one child policy. This prevents freedom of immigration which America exercises to a certain extent. The United States claims to obey human rights and civil rights more so than countries such as China, which will happily trade with countries that abuse human rights. Therefore, America is much more concerned with democracy and freedom compared to China, who is more concerned with profits and their own well-being. If America is unable to persuade China to take stronger action against North Korea, this will show the lack of influence that America now has in foreign affairs.
The USCPF also holds events that strengthens the relationship between the U.S and China. For example, in February 2012 Washington D.C welcomed the Chinese Vice President XI Jinping. Xi states that the relationship between the two countries is beneficial for both sides, as it enables 'increased bilateral investment in each other’s economies and more people-to-people exchanges.' Both America and China are superpowers and in order to attain these positions, both nations must trade with each other. However, America would prefer China to buy products more than they produce them, as this would help America during its economic crisis. The United States is more frequently relying on others for financial aid, as most of its debt is owed to China, therefore their relationship must stay strong for America's sake.
The USCPF offers more than simply providing information. It has a 'China Forum' which is an 'educational television program devoted exclusively to China.' This demonstrates the demand for online resources and suggests that the organisation is highly devoted to gathering accurate information and spreading this worldwide. They also offer programs which allow American teachers to go to China in order to 'study the Chinese education system and learn about Chinese history and culture.' One is not able to accurately inform others about a country in which they have not visited. This program shows that Americans are keen to gain a deeper understanding of China, by analysing its 'soft power' as well as its 'hard power.' These teachers will also be able to take advice from China which could help them to improve the educational system in America, as public schools are declining. However, as this site is from an American perspective, it would be interesting to see whether or not China is as keen to gain more knowledge of America.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Online Identity in America

The internet has shaped the lives of everybody who has been alive since it was introduced to the public, and especially to people who have been born into this 'digital' era. It has allowed people to contact others all around the world, for both social and business purposes, meaning the world is now a place where everybody is each others neighbour and borders between places are now less prominent.

Online, people can be whoever they want to be, meaning people can become more socially mobile, for instance, somebody who is shy and struggles to make friends at school could create an account on a social networking site and write what they really want to say, or even create a new personality for themselves on the internet. This has both its positives and its negatives; firstly, on a positive note, it means people feel less lonely and can make new friends, thus meaning they feel happier about themselves and may become more confident as a result of this. However, this confidence of the identity they create on the internet is unlikely to translate into the real world, and this problem of social seclusion they felt before is actually increased because their life is almost solely online, so their people skills in terms of face to face interaction actually begin to lessen.

In terms of websites such as YouTube, people who become video bloggers, or 'vloggers' as they are often referred to now, can use the website as a perfect platform to talk to other online members about what they feel in everyday life. Sites such as youtube and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are good to keep in contact with others, but when you begin to put your real life onto the internet, the boundaries between online and real life are destroyed, meaning that people will often become very obsessive with their online life and become less socially mobile with their real-life friends.

Dating sites are also another internet sensation that have been created, especially within the last decade or so. These are good in the sense that it allows single people who are looking for a partner to meet others online, despite the fact that the motives of the website are positive, the end result is often not as successful as the two people who have met over this dating site may have perceived it to be before they met face to face; this is because people create false personas and pretend to be someone they're not, as on dating sites you can hide the characteristics of your personality that you don't like and replace them with incorrect information. People may also put photos up from a few years back to make themselves look more attractive, as they don't want potential partners to be put off by what they look like now.

To conclude, I believe that the internet means people can easily become more socially mobile and that in the current state of the world, everything, including shopping and banking are moving onto the internet. Obviously there are both positives and negatives of this, but this easiness of communications and creation of identities will eventually lead to laziness; meaning the numbers of people with obesity and a lack of social skills will increase.

America Online.

As America is at the forefront of digital technology in the modern age, it is highly important to focus on what that means for the country itself. The birth of social networking, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as Youtube (which allows its users to upload and broadcast themselves across the world), the issue of online identity becomes an extremely important part of an American's everyday life.

The internet is argued to be the place for one to express themselves freely, and thus it could be seen as a cause for concern in consideration to content and who has access to what. America can govern its own laws, but they cannot govern the internet as a whole. It is possible, therefore, for people to project whatever they like for as long as they are able to be one step ahead of the authorities. For example, in cases of illegal downloading and piracy, it is near impossible for the American government to monitor and control. This therefore suggests that the online world has a certain extent of elitism as to who can use it and for what.

Arguably, the increase of teen suicides in the country has been aided by the use of the internet to continue bullying that would have stopped after the school day was over. Now it is possible for someone to attack your online identity as well as what you project in real life. The increase of cyber-bullying, as well as fraud and other criminal offences, has therefore made Americans wary of what they publish online. It could be argued, then, that an online identity is only what someone chooses to present and not their full identity.

This becomes interesting in the case of online dating websites and how they boast about matches they can make to someone with similar interests to you. However, is this actually possible if the two people are only projecting what they think are their best qualities, likes and interests? For example, it's not possible to change how you look in life, but it is possible to use your best photo and photoshop in order to project an improved version of how you look online.

Most Americans see the internet as a way to get on in life, with entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg making their millions, but also as a way of progressing forward socially. For example, it is possible for someone to become "Youtube Famous" as well as "Twitter Famous" due to their number of followers or subscribers online. But if the person who has become "Internet Famous" is only a section of their full identity, then it could be argued that it is only their digital self that is famous.

This may seem false to people from other countries, but for Americans it appears that they are willing to accept this level of invasion into their personal lives. Much of a digital native's life in America revolves around social networks and having a constant news feed of the things they are interested in. This sense of adaptability, the way that the internet can be moulded around a person's needs and interests, suggests a positive way of looking at the internet, and therefore it is difficult to see Americans willingly removing themselves from the digital world.

Online America: problems and successes

The best form of communication has always been to be face to face, this allowed each applicant to not only take in the information being discussed, but also decipher the way in which this information or conversation was presented. This would then increase the chance of understanding what the other person was trying to describe, and therefore rule out a large percentage of misunderstanding. This is different to; let’s say texting, because the facial expressions and tone of voice will help further recognize what aim was trying to be achieved, texting leads to mis-interpreting, for example; “Ok, that’s fine”, now this can be received in many manners, negative or positive. The problem with face to face communication is confidence, sometimes it is harder for people to say the things they feel as with facial contact there is only one chance, however online communication contains different results, many people find the confidence to express themselves further online than in person as they will not see the first hand reaction of others. This is way online identities has become so big within the last 10 years, everyone can create a ‘better’ version of themselves if it involves a computer. An online account of someone can be controlled and regularly changed, this means that the person controlling their own profile will have complete control of how they present themselves, this leads to people showing their best attributes, for example; FaceBook profile pictures will be played and tampered with until there is one that make the owner happy with how they look. This digital identity will therefore cancel out any flaws an individual may have, and replace them with ‘perfect’ representation.

There are many different online or digital identities people can access; FaceBook, twitter, YouTube to name a few, what these identities do is reveal the person to the world. FaceBook has become very popular over the last 5 years, many people spend hours on it every day, checking out what their friends are up to and also ‘stalking’ others. When creating your own profile you can carefully select what is presented and to whom, there is privacy settings which dictates who can see their profile, FaceBook also gives a chance for the applicant to search the millions of other FaceBookers, which can lead to obessesions. The problem with FaceBook is that, there is now another way for people to tell you and your friends how they feel about you, this can be a good thing, but sometimes it can turn into bullying, because of the extra access people can post messages or images that can offend the victim. There has been many examples of FaceBook bullying where the victim has been left demoralised and psychologically hurt, and also recently employers have been able to see what sort of person they will be employing is like, leading to discrimination.

Another form of digital identity is Twitter, the online social networking system where you can follow your favourite people or celebrities and see what they are up to. Twitter may have a character limit, but this does not harm the effect of people expressing their deepest feelings, sometimes this can also become an obsession, where by the public will follow their ‘hero’ 24/7. A notion that has occurred recently is twitter ‘rants’ where the profiler will complain about a recent issue, for example; footballers complaining about their managers team selection, this can lead to punishments and fines. Twitter is just (put lightly) another form of global exposure, similar to that of YouTube, where everyone can show their silly, funny, bad, impressive and emotional side. A notion that has occurred recently is twitter ‘rants’ where the profiler will complain about a recent issue, for example; footballers complaining about their managers team selection, this can lead to punishments and fines. Twitter is just (put lightly) another form of global exposure, similar to that of YouTube, where everyone can show their silly, funny, bad, impressive and emotional side. YouTube is the most popular website on the internet, with many people from all over the world tuning in everyday, it has become the playground for online sensations and is the hunting ground for individuals to advertise their talents. For example; Justin Beiber has become famous with the help of YouTube, his music videos were found by music moguls and the rest is history.

The way in Digital and online America is becoming, seems to be creating a lot of success and money, however I feel that one day people will not have the need to go out and see their friends face to face, because doing it online is easier. America will then lose a physical identity which has in past put them in front of others nations as the leading and forward thinking country.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Digital Identites in America

America’s association with the digital age has undoubtedly been paramount to not only the development of technology, but also its enhancement. With the introduction of Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and various other popular websites, there has been a growing concern over the meaning of identity, and its place within the future of America. One of the main issues that surround the digital age of today, is whether everybody is the same online.

The most popular social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook originated from the United States, which thus reinforces the idea that America is leading the way in digital identity. On the internet, and particularly with Facebook, people have complete control over what information they want others to view, including their profile pictures and the way in which they want others to perceive them in terms of appearance. However, it terms of authenticity, there has been a growing concern. Although in some cases their profile picture reflects their appearance, their personality may not reflect their true identity. In addition to this, there have also been cases where such social networking has been a frontier for false identity in general. In other words, people only see/know the things we want them to and, in some cases, our digital identity can be the total opposite of our true identity.

However, growing concerns over identity are not just restricted to the vearious social network sites, for example with the development of the numerous RPG's (Role Play Games). Such examples can be seen in the popular game World of Warcraft (released in 2004, and since then it has 10.2million subscribers as of 2011), as well as the virtual world of Second Life - Both products of American culture. The 2008 BBC documentry Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love portrays the extent to which identity can be obscured, using the specific example of Second Life. This particular episode focuses on an American woman, Carolyn, and her obsession with
living in the virtual world. Her obsession became so extreme that Carolyn was willing to abandon her family to start a new life with the man who is her husband in the virtual world. The question is, therefore, what makes this website, which has three million members, so compelling enough that people are allowing themselves to become totally manipulated by the virtual world? The fact of the matter is that the idea of a digital identity is appealing because we have full control over it and it offers people a chance to escape their daily lives.

In general, social network sites and role play games enable people to escape from their daily lives and be the people that they want to be. Not only this, but the fact that people are literally living their lives online only further reinforces the idea that digital identities are becoming more and more prominent. To some extent it could be argued that everyone is the same online, particularly through the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, however, through the example of the BBC documentary ‘Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love', digital identity can affect some individuals more than others. In general I believe that the digital identity of America will continue to exist and further enhance this digital age. America’s dominance is not only affecting its own identity, but the identities of the whole world.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Digital Identity in the USA

The website 'Business Insider' explores the different identities available to Americans online. Preetam Kaushik states that Facebook was established 'to help young college students find dates and networks.' However, Facebook has expanded its utility, as one is able to create a persona of themselves online. On the other hand, communicating online can cause one to become isolated as oppose to liberated, because Facebook users will replace physical communication to online communication. Further, liberation is restricted by the lack of privacy online, for example employers are able to search an employees profile for any mitigating factors that will effect their job stability.Yet it could be argued that there is variation between Facebook users. For instance, an older individual is likely to use the site less regularly and mainly to communicate with friends or family and to gain knowledge. Whilst youths are more likely to use the site more frequently and become concerned with photos and status updates. Either way, Facebook is used as a means of escapism from the average working day, which is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. But an excess of any pleasure is unhealthy, as using Facebook obsessively results in a decrease of time spent outside of an enclosed room with either a laptop or a mobile phone.
Kaushik then states 'Youtube was a platform for dorky youngsters to upload and share their videos online (as it turned out there’s a dorky youngster in all of us!)' This implies that Youtube is a means of transferring knowledge to others. This is accurate, but the significance of the statement is 'platform.' Youtube has also developed, especially in the music and film industries, as individuals can listen to music or watch films free of charge. This is beneficial to the consumer - who is not forced to walk to the shop in order to be entertained. On the other hand, Youtube has had a negative effect on companies such as HMV which is struggling to compete against the online market, which also includes Amazon for instance. Youtube also allows users to share their videos on social networking sites such as Facebook, as a result others can be introduced to new entertainment, knowledge and cultures. An example of a highly influential Youtube video was the Kony campaign which was released in March 2012. At first, the video was seen to raise awareness of the cruelties taking place in Africa. Yet sceptics argued that the movie was, in reality, propaganda which exaggerated the events occurring. Either way, Youtube has provoked discussion on major world issues, therefore credit it deserved.
Furthermore Kaushik argues, 'blogging was all about self-expression.' Allowing a person to express their personal opinions online provokes discussion on an array of subjects. Blogs are being used in schools in order to allow children to increase their online abilities as well as their general knowledge. On all the above forms of networking, individuals can be anonymous to a certain extent, as simply providing your name does not reveal your identity and the name used may not be truthful. Consequently, online users do not have to fear prejudice from other users, thus equality is exercised online. However, it could be argued that in a moral society, there should be no fear of discrimination and therefore one should be able to reveal their identity. Unfortunately, a minority of online users will use the Internet to abuse and bully others. But this will always occur, even without the Internet.
The liberation of the Internet is not just limited to individuals, as businesses also use online websites in order to increase knowledge of their market. Kaushik states the Internet 'is also a way to engage with the customer like never before.' Sites such as Facebook allow businesses to read criticisms customers have expressed. Further, surveys can be produced by businesses which ask questions about their customers. For example, McDonalds could ask the individuals using Facebook: what is your favourite food? The restaurant can consequently gain a larger understanding of its customers wants and needs. These processes take consumerism to a higher level, which is beneficial to America and companies worldwide.
Kaushik also mentions the popular 'Q&A webpages like Wiki Answers or YahooAnswers.' These websites can increase ones' knowledge, but not all the information provided on such sites are reliable. Additionally, such websites may prevent the increase in the world's intellectual capacities, because information circulates the Internet, but new information is arguably not often produced. Instead, users are merely consumers of such knowledge. If the use of such sources continue to increase, will there be a purpose for the public library or the university library? Would there even be a purpose for the university? Individuals can easily access information online, therefore lectures could become unnecessary. Instead, the purpose of university could be to gain independence rather than knowledge. If this is the case, universities will survive, seeing as the Internet can not fully offer both knowledge and social opportunities.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Why is America's Class Divide Deepening?

In this news article from the Korea Times, the authors look at how and why America's class divide is deepening, with an emphasis and focus on one specific writer; Charles Murray.

They look at the positives and negatives of Murray's views in a critical way; as an overall summary, they finish their article with a conclusion which is food for thought; Changing a culture is difficult and takes time. With the crisis facing our republic today, "hope for change" may not be good enough. This is a very effective point because it is almost realising that America's culture may never change and that this class divide will always exist, and will continue to widen as time progresses. 

Murray looks at the time periods of 50 years ago from today and the present time, he clearly states the differences that exist and how society has changed; he puts this down to peoples views on things such as religion changing and this is the root of the issue. In the article, they emphasise the statistics of divorce amongst the different classes within the United States. Within the middle class white population, 80% of them are married and the divorce rates are far lower than what they are in the lower class families; could this be down to people losing faith in America, after all, it is being rapidly caught up by China in terms of its economic power; and from the latest economic recession and people losing jobs, people may be becoming disheartened with America and are unhappy- which has then been projected onto their family lives and marriages. 

In the article they do briefly look at the notorious '1%' of Americans who have so much of the wealth, but they say it has more to do with the ruling elite such as leading politicians- Murray urges these elite members to preach more about virtue to the lower classes. 

This article is effective in the sense that it weighs up Murray's book and critically analyses it; and how well it represents the issue of America's deepening class system. 

Wealth Gap in America

With the recent issues of income inequality being brought to the forefront of the American social conscious with protests such as the Occupy Movement calling for farer wealth distribution, it's not wonder that issues of class divides and poverty will play a key role in the 2012 presidential election.

Bruce Watson states in his article ('It's official: Wealth gap has turned America into a seething pit of resentment') for the Daily Finance that the Pew Research Centre found '66% of Americans believe that there is a "strong" or "very strong" conflict between the rich and the poor'. Watson acknowledges this staggering statistic by noting that just three years ago, only 47% of respondents shared these opinions. The number of those who responded with 'very strong' is, intact, the highest it has been since the question was first asked in 1987, showing a vast change in public opinion over a relatively short period of time. This tells us that there is serious distrust in American wealth and how it is distributed.

Essentially, during the past three years, more traditional sources of friction -- race, gender, religion, sexual preference, age and national origin -- have become vastly overshadowed by distrust over wealth.

Watson therefore asks if America is the 'melting pot or boiling cauldron', suggesting that this change in public opinion is directly related to the rich getting richer and the 99% remaining on the same levels of income. This, in turn, has raised more awareness of class within America. Particularly in the case of white Americans, the research figures show an increase in opinions towards class conflicts by more than 50%, jumping from 43% to 65%.

Politically, democrats have always been more likely to notice a class divide, but it appears that the latest results show an increase in conflict between classes for both republicans and democrats. This plays a significant role in the presidential race and the search for a republican candidate. Watson quotes Rick Santorum when he attacked both Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney for using the term 'middle class'.

The governor used a term earlier that I shrink from. It's one that I don't think we should be using as Republicans: "middle class." There are no classes in America. We are a country that don't allow for titles. We don't put people in classes. There may be middle-income people, but the idea that somehow or another we're going to buy into the class-warfare arguments of Barack Obama is something that should not be part of the Republican lexicon. That's their job -- divide, separate, put one group against another.

Similarily though, Romney shares opinions with Santorum, and this can be seen in the quote that Watson reports in his article.

You know, I think it's about envy. I think it's about class warfare. When you have a President encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99% versus 1% -- and those people who have been most successful will be in the 1% -- you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.

These two republican ideas, however, go directly against what the statistics are showing for the American people as a whole, political parties aside. As Watson goes on to say, another poll by Bloomberg and The Washington Post found that 53% of Republicans believe that taxes should be increased on households making more than $250,000 per year. These statistics show a growing number of worried republicans who have also found themselves struggling with the unfair wealth distribution, some of which has been experienced by Mitt Romney himself as he struggles to identify with the poor, middle class and even upper middle class of America.

Watson concludes his article by saying:

While it remains to be seen how much the struggle between the rich and the rest will affect the next election, one thing is clear: For a growing number of voters, one eye will be on the ballot box, and the other will be on the bottom line.

This summary may seem ominous, but the sentiment is felt across America nationwide. While the 1% of Americans continue to live frivolous lives, the rest of the population live in fear of losing their jobs or being out of work due to injury as they cannot afford to lose pay or else they won't be able to make rent the next month. In a first world country, the middle class are homeless, their children are hungry, and all they are being told is that it will get better, even as the American dream fails to live up to expectations.

Greed, Excess and America's Gaping Class Divide

It seems that the class divide in the USA keeps gets bigger and bigger, more and more people are becoming unemployed living of benefits and sometimes nothing at all, this is occurring whilst a small percentage of some Americans are earning ludicrous amounts each which keep increasing. Even though the amount of Americans earning over 5 million (which is ridiculous) has decreased over the last 20 years, these rich Americans have somehow increased their wealth immensely.

This article was taken from the popular magazine Rolling Stones, within it the journalist explores the ways in which government policies can affect the rich and also how each class are unaware of how the other lives, for example; how the rich simply have no concept of what being broke or poor really means. In a new proposed governmental policy, Barack Obama was considering curtailing the compensation of bailed-out bankers to $500,000, to many this would seem a huge and wealthy salary. This was meant for the general direction of Wall Street, where the notion that the government should restrict the salaries of exactly the irresponsible greedheads who caused a global financial crisis, however this proposed policy was met with blunt outrage, whereby many bankers argued the point that they would not be able to survive on this amount alone. During this debate over the proposed salary cap, one of the things we started to hear from the 'rich' class was a general sense of wonder at the notion that anyone considered them rich. Many of these people believed they were middle class, for example; ABC's Charlie Gibson and CNN reporter Kiran Chetry in recent years suggested that $200-$250,000 is middle class, saying that in certain areas of the country $250,000 would be the norm.
All of this is conformation to the amazing and rapidly growing class divide that is occurring throughout American society, It is true that if you make $300,000 in America, you won't feel like you're so very rich once you've finished paying your taxes, your mortgage, your medical bills. For this reason, a lot of people who make that kind of money believe they are the modern middle class: house in the burbs, a car, a kid in college, a trip to Europe once a year, they believe that this is not such a big deal. Well considering that many Americans are hard working citizens earning less than $60,00, I determine that they are more upper class, these 'middle class' American are subject of greed. However from the average day American, anyone who has a secure job or any security of their job at all, retirement plan and a substantial health plan can be seen as upper class.

Not many 'poor' Americans do not know how the 'other half live, they barely get to see how the rich behave or extravagantly spend, however one man that likes to show off his wealth is Stephen Schwarzman, he is a private equity businessman who earns over 400 million a year and spent 5 million celebrating his 60th birthday, of which the only attendance was by invite only, meaning that not many 'normal' Americans could have access to this extravaganza. Schwarzman argued Barack Obama's proposed salary deficit, by comparing the president to Hitler for even considering rolling back his carried-interest exemption, which, again, allows him to pay 15%
taxes while some of the rest of American's citizens pay twice that or more. "It's a war," he said, "It's like when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland".

However when viewing this rapidly expressed issue in America, we must consider that even though America is for the moment the wealthiest country in the world, they still have many living in poverty without a job or a stable '$500,000 salary'. This is happening alongside the small percentage of Americans who are raking in lots of money whilst complaining about being either salary capped or have an increase on taxes. One thing that is clear is the lack of awareness from both sides on how each other lives, they tend to ignore one another and generally do not spend much of their lives dealing with the opposite class.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Class War in America

This article written by David Rosen from the political news website Counter Punch, argues how there is a prominent class struggle within contemporary USA. Rosen tackles the primary importance of how America has always been in the midst of a class system, despite the fact that it has been commonly denied. Rosen argues, ‘The fiction that America is a nation without class, a lie since its inception a half-century ago, gets more and more untenable as actual class struggle daily intensifies.’

As discussed in Wednesday’s workshop, the class system is not just a problem for the poor - it surrounds America much more broadly. Rosen argues how, unlike other countries, the United States refuse to accept an issue which currently defines the nation. ‘Class struggle is being explicitly fought out in France and Britain. In France, it is expressed as mass and often-violent resistance, with blood on the streets. In the U.K., it’s being imposed as a ruling class demand for austerity through huge public-sector layoffs, cuts in public services and little overt resistance. In … the U.S., the mediating lubricants of legal niceties and political parties continue to contain and blunt direct class conflict.’ In his article, Rosen argues that the Class System and conflict has been a feature of American political culture from as early as 1766 with ‘the New York Tenant uprising’, and yet since this time is still an issue which firstly, has never been remotely resolved and secondly, an issue which has been denied time and again. Rosen continues to note how since the Reagan Revolution in the 1980’s the ‘abundance for middle class has increasingly been replaced by debt’. Most Americans recognise class struggle through the high rates of unemployment and low wage income, which in turn increases, Rosen argues, the amount of unpaid bills and the ‘unspeakable bonuses paid to financial wheeler-dealers’. This presents a very powerful representation of class difference, but in turn complicates the deeper conflict over the growing division of wealth throughout America.

Rosen also implies how the middle class is an ‘effectively slippery category in American political discourse.’ Here Rosen argues that this category applies to everyone and no one. He uses the example of how the U.S Census Bureau does not define the ‘middle class’, yet has set the median income for a family of four in 2008 to 2009 at $70,000, a category which the 2008 Pew Research survey found that half of all Americans fell in to. The use of this shows how by making people apply to one category is an attempt to cover up class war. Thus, this reiterates the fact that government officials fail to see, or do not want to see, that there is a clear class division.

In general, Rosen believes that America needs to recognise that the country is divided by social class. He states, ‘It is time for Americans to reclaim the concept of class war. This needs to be done for two reasons: first, to actively combat the great squeeze ruining the lives of untold millions of Americans faced with financial catastrophe; and, second, to end the campaign by the
super-rich (in league with government tax policies, subsidies and other give-aways) and the media to keep alive the fiction of America is a classless society free of class war.’ In terms of the American Dream, although many people maintain that getting through the class struggle is to work hard, insomuch that the poor refuse that poverty is permanent, it could be argued that Rosen argues that the Dream is not possible until America admits and recognises the fact that they have this societal problem. It will not allow people to move forward, until the problem is addressed and a solution becomes imminent. Rosen argues that this class struggle is a key aspect in America’s identity, and needs to be addressed in order to create equality and a free class America.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Economic Divides in America. (Week 9/10)

This is a short but effective indicator of the blatant economic and social divides within America society. This is not a regional difference, just across one street....
Where and why and what solutions?

Can you find similar examples?
See you Monday,

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Class System in America Today

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a Professor of Economics at Columbia University. His article "America's Political Class Struggle" focuses on the issue of class in politics. Sachs believes that both parties have strong weaknesses. He states, 'But, like the Republicans, the Democrats, too, are keen to shower tax cuts on their major campaign contributors, predominantly rich Americans.' If politicians favour the rich, in return the rich will benefit the parties during their Presidential campaigns. This demonstrates the injustice being exercised, because the working class and poor are unable to influence politics due to the insufficient amount of money they obtain. As a result, they are unable to change their unfortunate situation and are unable to move up the social ladder; the key element to achieving the American dream is acceptance into the middle-class. Not only are they deprived of this opportunity, but the rich are becoming richer, therefore money is not being equally distributed amongst American society.
The situation is only going to gain momentum downhill, because 'The US budget deficit is enormous and unsustainable. The poor are squeezed by cuts in social programs and a weak job market.' First and foremost, the poor are not only being targeted by such actions, but they are also innocent and unworthy of such punishments, seeing as the government was supposedly in control of spending America's money, not the poor. Hope is given to the poor through social programs and the job market and if these opportunities are taken away, what hope is left for these individuals? The continuation of such cuts will not only worsen the situation of the poor, but the situation of America will worsen. If poor people are unable to obtain jobs, they are unable to pay taxes and consequently unable to aid America financially. Instead, the government is constantly required to offer welfare, but this can only be a temporary measure due to the lack of finances available.
This inequality is however not a new phenomenon. 'Since Ronald Reagan became President in 1981, America’s budget system has been geared to supporting the accumulation of vast wealth at the top of the income distribution.' During the 1980s, America experienced a booming economy, therefore perhaps supporting the rich could be justified. However, it is unlikely that such practices are justifiable in America today because the economy is struggling, therefore the poor need help as oppose to the wealthy.
During attacks on the Republicans, Sachs states the party is willing to 'slash the budget not by ending the useless war in Afghanistan, and by eliminating unnecessary weapons systems, but by cutting education, health, and other benefits for the poor and working class.' The Republicans would argue that the war in Afghanistan has a purpose; democracy. But even if this purpose is fading, troops will supposedly be removed from Afghanistan by 2014, therefore the issue of war is irrelevant in the debate on class struggle. However, Sachs makes an accurate argument, because this is not the first time that war has taken priority over the welfare of poor citizens at home. In the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson campaigned for a 'War on Poverty,' however the campaign was not hugely successful, due to America's involvement in the Vietnam War. This involvement not only cost a huge amount of money, but ultimately the war was not a success, therefore the money used could have instead benefited the poor.
However, Sachs believes that the poor will eventually respond to such inequality, as he states 'With their backs against the wall, I predict, poor and working-class Americans will begin to agitate for social justice.' As this article was written in 2010, Sachs has made an accurate foresight, because Occupy Wall Street campaigned against the corrupt nature of wealthy businessmen and institutions. But whether the protest will promote change is debatable, because the government must save money one way or another. Yet the protests do demonstrate that America is capable of exercising democracy by allowing freedom of speech during such hardships.
Sachs admits that money must be saved to reduce the deficit. However, the means of achieving this are questioned, as he asks ' Will it really balance the budget by slashing education spending at a time when US students already are being out-performed by their Asian counterparts?' America can not rely on the minority wealthy population to exercise their intelligence, (even though some have inherited their wealth as oppose to gaining it through merit.) The majority of the population are middle class and working class, therefore these people should receive adequate education. Further, if the poor are ignored in the education system, they will once again be unable to move up the social ladder or help America financially.
Obama is clearly not able to resolve these issues, as Sachs states Obama's 'administration is filled with Wall Street bankers.' This is only Sachs's personal view, as he also states 'Obama swept to power on the promise of change. So far there has been none.' However, fellow Americans also hold this view, therefore if the government is truly 'for the people by the people,' Obama will not be able to benefit the minority wealthy population for much longer.
Thankfully, Sachs offers a solution to the current corrupt political parties, as he states 'If this continues, a third party will emerge, committed to cleaning up American politics and restoring a measure of decency and fairness.' Currently, Sachs proposal has not occurred, seeing as the race for the Presidency is between the Democrats and the Republicans. As a result, there is little hope for America, because the fear of socialism will prevent social action being taken to help the poor. These individuals must simply wait until the unemployment rate reaches 25% as it did during the Great Depression. Maybe then the government will intervene.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

American Buddhist Congress

The American Buddhist Congress was founded in 1987 and calls upon individual Buddhists and Buddhist societies throughout America, to come together and join hands to put their message and beliefs across to the rest of America. This is the purpose of the ABC:

1. Promote the development of an American Buddhism by adapting and blending the American linguistic and cultural traditions and values and the Tripitaka in ways loyal to the Buddha's basic teachings, but also identifiable with American ideals and values.

2. Bring together American Buddhist organizations and individuals of all traditions to encourage cooperation for the common good.

3. Promote appreciation and understanding of each other's traditions and values among the various Buddhists groups and within American society.

4. Cooperate with other organizations to promote peace and harmony.

5. Assist in implementing worthy projects of Buddhist organizations of varying traditions,
6. To help encourage the development of a uniquely American Buddhist culture to include new liturgies and music.

7. To work toward the founding of an American Buddhist Seminary for the training of Dhamma Teachers and monks.

They have been gifted the Bodhi award which is bestowed upon them for the tireless teaching of wisdom and compassion. This shows how seriously they take their teachings and how much they believe in promoting their religion throughout America.

The intensity in which they go about spreading the world of their religion is representative of them believing that they don't really fit in that well with the rest of America. This is probably largely to do with the high majority of Christians within America, and as the immigration rates of the Hispanic population carry on to increase, it also means the prevalence of the Catholic religion will grow and become dominant within the country- meaning Buddhist's power and the percentage of the population that they hold will lessen. At this current point in time, 0.7% of America are Buddhist, although this sounds very low, the population of America is around 300million, meaning approximately 3 million people in the country are buddhist, which is a relatively high number of people- meaning that the messages that they are trying to promote could potentially be quite easily spread. 

Religion in America.... more maps!

For detail on location and membership of religious groups, this website provides a foundation for discussion and analysis. There are useful insights into the character of religious groups.
See you Monday,

Christian Coalition of America

The Christian Coalition of America (CC) was founded in 1989 and makes claim to being one of the largest conservative grassroots political organisations in America. By being a member of CC, Americans of faith can become actively involved in impacting the issues they care about and thus help to shape the laws that could be passed in Congress.

CC states itself as being made up of 'pro-family Americans' who are concerned with traditional values and how the government upholds them. Their main goal is to preserve family values and protect them from potential 'threats'. Effectively, they make a call to all Christians in order to educate and mobilise themselves for political actions.

Their website states their mission as:
  • Represent the pro-family point of view before local councils, school boards, state legislatures and Congress
  • Speak out in the public arena and in the media
  • Train leaders for effective social and political action
  • Inform pro-family voters about timely issues and legislation
  • Protest anti-Christian bigotry and defend the rights of people of faith
Given the fact that it is election year, CC has increased its political rallies fighting for rights that they believe in. Their homepage even asks readers to 'pray and vote', thus further increasing the influence of the Christian faith on politics. Being 'pro-family', the CC is obviously concerned with issues that would affect the nuclear family, and the key issues they are fighting against in 2012 include subjects such as Stem Cell Research, Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defence of Marriage Act.

In order to further educate Christians, CC has a 'spread the word' section on their website, encouraging readers to email links, friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and many more, thus utilising modern technology in order to reach a wider range of audiences. As it is usually the younger generation who use such social networking sites, it's clear to see their aim is to educate those who may become interested in politics, and to instil their ideologies in the youth of America.

Furthermore, CC has a link to church liaisons and prayer partners, reinforcing the Christian ideals that they represent. Interestingly, CC refers to its members as 'Americans of faith' and by doing so, they ignore other religions within America and although the country is notoriously seeped in the Judaic Christian ideals (In God We Trust, One Nation Under God etc.), it effectively labels Christianity as synonymous with faith. By doing so, it appears that freedom of religion isn't the same for all faiths.

CC states that it is a political organisation, but by so blatantly advertising themselves as both Christian and political, they effectively merge church and state. By doing so, they effectively suggest that Christian ideals should be enforced by law and thus are biased towards preaching the word of God instead of taking an objective view of social issues that affect all Americans, and not just Christians.

Bahai Faith

The Bahai Faith is the youngest of the world's independent religions, founded in Iran in 1844, it now has more than five million followers in over 200 countries, coming from every national, ethnic and religious background makes the Bahai Faith the second most widespread religion in the world, behind only Christianity. The Bahai Faith believe that the world's major religions present part of a single and progressive process in which God reveals his will to humanity. The founder of Bahai; Baha'u'llah is now part of a recognised divine messager's group that includes; Buddha, Muhammad and Christ. The main concept of Baha'u'llah's messages is that humanity is one single race and that the day has come for the people's unification into one global society.

Bahai's core beliefs include:
  • The Oneness of humanity
  • The common origin and unity of purpose of all world religions
  • The harmony of science and religion
  • Equality of women and men
  • The elimination of all forms of prejudice
  • A spiritual solution to economic problems
  • The establishment of a world commonwealth of nations
This religion comes across as being quite friendly and inviting, this is due to the outlining message that everyone is equal and this religion does not believe in prejudice like that of many religions over the battle with science. However Bahai Faith seems to allow special relationships that makes it welcoming to anyone, not just people from specific background or upbringing, but is for anyone who wishes to follow in their faith. Bahai is great at taking social actions, by which they create meetings or organise days where people can get involved in certain projects; like that of community work. Through grassroots, Bahai can reveal their faith to the youth, however they do not pressurise them in following the Bahai ways, but instead teach the children of their religion and present their ideas, from this if the child likes the idea then they can follow as well.

The Homepage on their website has all the typical setout and layout anyother website has; it History tabs, local news and events, real life stories or successes and also popular social website addresses like Twitter or Facebook. The one thing i have noticed different about this website form previous ones is that, the Bahai's are not asking for donations or money, this shows that the Bahai Faith is not for profitable business but instead is a religion that only ask for morale support. What the Bahai Faith points out about others faiths is that they present a more militant way of controlling religion, they often disagree with other religions and always denies science as a important subject in our societies. This is why Bahai Faith was created, because it takes the spiritual side of many religions but also possess a laid back and calm approach to current issues and events. Maybe the reason why so many American people have turned to this faith is because they feel that Bahai presents a calm and peaceful approach to religion.

Friday, 9 March 2012

American Family Association

The American Family Association, founded in 1977, is a non-profit organization set up in Mississippi. The AFA was originally titled the National Federation of Decency, and has now over two million members. AFA's mission is to 'inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.' In general, AFA believe that God communicated the 'truth' of mankind, and therefore believe that people are subject to the authority of God's Word at all times. As the website states, AFA believes 'that a culture based on biblical truth best serves the well-being of our nation and our families, in accordance with the vision of our founding documents; and that personal transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest agent of biblical change in any culture.'

Within their Action Statement, AFA state that they act to:
(1) Restrain evil by exposing the works of darkness
(2) Promote virtue by upholding in culture that which is right, true and good according to Scripture
(3) Convince individuals of sin and challenge them to seek Christ’s grace and forgiveness
(4) Motivate people to take a stand on cultural and moral issues at the local, state and national levels
(5) Encourage Christians to bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ as they live their lives before the world.
To do this, AFA believe in five key areas for activism; Preservation of Marriage and the Family, Decency and Morality, Sanctity of Human Life, Stewardship and Media Integrity. In terms of 'Media Integrity', AFA argue that media creates negative ideologies to children, for example insomuch that it can 'encourage' homosexuality. Therefore, they aim to turn this concept around so that the media is used in a positive way which embodies and preserves AFA's family principles.

In addition to this, AFA have many projects which highlights and helps to encourage these ideas, perhaps the most infamous being One Million Moms. This project reinforces the notion of America being recognised through it's family values and in particular the idea of the nuclear family; a mother, a father and two children. Needless to say, AFA are therefore against homosexuality and abortion, as well as others. AFA also have their own 'Focal Point' blog, whereby their five main areas of interest are discussed. The blog postings range from issues such as terrorism and homosexuality to the suggested Christian references within the Declaration of Independence. AFA take a very radical approach when discussing these subjects, insomuch that it could be seen as offensive. Other examples of their work can be seen in the Proposition 8 ballot - whereby California would amend the state's constitution to protect heterosexual marriage. In support of it, in 2008 AFA produced a documentary, written and produced by the staff at AFA which was distributed to 21,000 churches in California. AFA have stated that 'the video proved to be a valuable tool in the passage of Proposition 8.'

In general, the American Family Association says it all in its name. They aim to be an advocate for Christian Religion throughout America, and believe that by preserving Christian morals and principles American identity will be the way God had intended. AFA encourage people to donate and support their organization, and that by doing this they will be 'do[ing] it for [their] children and grandchildren.' Overall AFA wishes to promote a 'traditional' America, whereby Christian values and morals will preserve the country.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Religion and Identity

Faithful America 'is an online community of tens of thousands of citizens motivated by faith to
take action on the pressing moral issues of our time.' The group demonstrates that religion in American is closely linked to morality and helping others. However, the group does not have an official religion, as it states 'We come from diverse faith traditions.' This is beneficial, because it means the group encompasses a variety of different viewpoints and further, no religious group is discriminated against. Therefore, although America is mainly a Christian country, with 80% of the population stating they are Christian, other religious groups are also significant and can help to improve America.
The group does not limit itself to simply improving America however, as they aim to 'uphold the common good in America and across the globe.' This suggests that the world has many issues which need resolving and faith can help to diminish these issues. However, other nations such as the UK, which is 50% atheist, are unlikely to fully commit to Faithful America's proposals. Yet the group clearly demonstrates confidence in this optimistic statement and it also parallels with America's determination to lead the world in every aspect of life, including social issues.
One of their aims is to 'promote economic security for all,' which is a highly ambitious statement seeing as the class gap between the rich and the poor is arguably increasing in America. This statement also highlights that there is a connection between capitalism and religion. Without money, the world can not become a better place. (This is evident in the presence of their donation page.) The importance of money can also be related to the American Dream, as the majority of Americans are likely to believe that the dream is only achieved through the obtainment of wealth.
Additionally, they wish to 'restore America's commitment to human rights and diplomacy.' This implies that America has declined in its compassion, due to the abuses of human rights being exercised currently. Therefore, the group is basing their principles on the Bill of Rights. Consequently, there is also a link between politics and religion, because without political decisions, improvements can not be enforced. Individual acts of compassion will not suffice with a population of over 300 million. Further, the reference to diplomacy shows that the group wishes for America to have a more dominant role within the world, even though America is largely influential currently. They imply that it is America's duty to protect the vulnerable in other countries from human rights abuses, however there is only so much pressure America can enforce upon other countries. America's vision of democracy does not necessarily appeal to everyone.
Another aim is to 'prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change,' therefore the group wishes to protect the environment as it was created by God. This also suggests that the group is not extreme, because some religious sects, who are usually Evangelicals, hold the belief that America should encourage the end times by continuing to increase global warming. Faithful America appear to be a progressive group, because they are looking towards the future, even though they look towards the past; the Bible, for guidance. One of the ways of reducing the impact of climate change is to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that America produces. This is a highly difficult task, seeing as the country wishes to maintain its superpower status and is therefore unlikely to decrease its industrial developments.
Their homepage includes many stories which demonstrate the changes that Faithful America are responsible for. For example, the group protested against the 'Family Research President Tony Perkins,' by delivering a petition of '20,000' signatures. Perkins has been accused of an 'extensive record of hate speech against gay and lesbian Americans.' The group is clearly demonstrating a liberal view, because although the Bible states that homosexuality is a sin, Faithful America believes that equality overrules this. Therefore they do not read the Bible literally. Instead, Faithful America claims to be a 'grassroots movement,' therefore it wishes to promote America's traditional values, of democracy, freedom and happiness. But at the same time, it wishes to promote progress through their ambitions to transform society.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Gay identity in contemporary USA

Obama's view on gay marriage is very typical of many people within America at the present time, and more commonly people from the pasts views on same-sex marriage. After receiving what appears to be quite a simple request from the host, "Define marriage", Obama instantly responds and reinforces the fact that he believes marriage is the connection between specifically a man and a woman; which is greeted by a lengthy round of applause from the audience.

Although he does state the fact that due to his Christian beliefs he thinks marriage is something that is holy and involves God, as well as the man and the woman; Obama cleverly makes sure that he doesn't think gay people shouldn't be legally separated as it would go against their human and civil rights- this ensures that he remains popular amongst his people as the president.

What this does show is that America is quite socially undeveloped in respect to its view on gay marriage. In the UK and plenty of other countries worldwide, gay marriage is acceptable and is within the law, however, in some states in the US, it is illegal- proving how Americans aren't always the most welcoming of change and aspects of their culture that are deemed to be different or abnormal.

Many campaigns within America have led to same sex partnerships to become increasingly acceptable in the US, such as the 'It Gets Better' youtube campaign, which aimed to support gay people, especially gay american youths. A large majority of the comments on this video itself focus on how America is a "Free country" and gay people should be allowed to do what they want, and that the government should focus on more important things such as its own debt and the high unemployment rates within America. Despite these supportive comments and campaigns, there are still plenty of Americans who are very set in their traditional ways and are extremely against gay marriage because it goes against the bible- something which is very important as such a high percentage of the American population are Christian. This shows two very contrasting sides of the scale, and explains the conflicting views and importance that beliefs on gay marriage hold within America, in both a religious and a political way.

It Gets Better: Apple Employees

The It Gets Better Project was created by Dan Savage and his husband in 2010 in response to the teen suicides that occur across America because of young people who are bullied because of their sexuality, or their assumed sexuality. The project aims to prevent suicides amongst the youth and instead intends to highlight LGBT members of society and gives them a voice in order to tell their own stories.

The project has gained supporters from all different walks of life, including people from the entertainment industry, such as Lady GaGa, Chris Colfer and Zachary Quinto, but members of politics have also made pledges, including President Obama. The presence of such high profile figures in America putting their names towards the cause helps to highlight the severity of the issue within modern society. No longer is it a case of "don't ask, don't tell", but now LGBT members are encouraged to be who they are.

The video produced by Apple employees is surprisingly significant in the way that it depicts ordinary members of a work force who all share something in common: they have all been discriminated against. Often, it is the case for most LGBT people and sadly the struggle against such prejudice has almost become a part of their identity. However, the Apple employees in this video do talk about their own experiences growing up, but they also contrast it with how they live their lives today. Being discriminated against shouldn't be an essential factor of being a LGBT teen in America. Bullying is not a right of passage and it is not something to be tolerated. Most importantly, the Apple employees stress that it is also not acceptable that so many of them faced suicidal thoughts, let alone actual suicide attempts.

For a young member of the LGBT community, seeing such a video might give them hope for a brighter future. Here is a group of people who work for the same company who have shared similar experiences, who have all been told they are wrong, just like the teens of America have been told today. What is paramount, however, is the fact that here is also a group of people who are not wrong, will not accept that they are wrong, and have got through it. Because they survived, they have these wonderful, everyday experiences that they otherwise wouldn't have had had they taken their own lives.

The fact that such a mainstream company such as Apple is proud of their employees, no matter what their sexual orientation, shows the youth of America that times are changing and will continue to change as they grow older. What seems like a struggle today won't necessarily be a struggle tomorrow, and the more accepting they are of themselves, the more accepting America and the rest of the world will be of their community.

Reality Bytes Back

Reality Bytes Back is an online gossip show, generally focusing on the issues raised by popular TV shows and popular culture. The show does not seem to be too professional as both presenters seem to be more interested in 'bitching' about famous people than actually presenting relevant information.

During this episode,they show a clip of Real Housewife, why is a reality TV show based on 'well off' wives surrounding Orange County region in America. In this particular clip three of the housewives are dining for lunch, and they discuss each other's marriages, however one of

them is a lesbian. This women seems confident enough to not only express her relationship to her friends but also on national television,
her confidence in telling, suggests that American seems to be fine with this type of sexuality. Even the show hosts are for gay marriage, saying it's their own choice, however one of the housewives disagrees with lesbian sexuality, describing it as 'not a real marriage'. She then further discriminates against it using her strong religious theory believing that god did not intend for this too happen. Therefore the religious culture or more so Christianity within America is presented as anti-gay, although this is from one women's perspective.

Reality Bytes Back hosts then suggest that the only reason why this anti-gay women is on the 'Housewives' is because she can produce controversy and disproves of gay situations, therefore by believing it would cause controversy it must be unusual behavior, which seems quite true as the show hosts disagree with the anti-gay slurs and perception.

As Reality Bytes Back is a celebrity based news feed, it suggests that the show will try to entice the audience with the most outrageous actions or issues of present time. However this show does not seem to be a reliable source of information as I believe the hosts are generally 'bitching' about a celebrity and the anti-gay slur give them another reason to offend her. Also the actual reality show explores the lives of very privileged women and does not represent the common class and will therefore describe issues that are not relevant to the majority of Americans.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Gay Marriage Within America

This is a speech made by student Jacob Kraybill of Goshen College, a Christian based institution situated in Indiana. Kraybill makes a very passionate argument toward the legalisation of same sex marriage within America, whilst using the oppressions that he himself faces as a homosexual to strengthen his argument. In general, Kraybill argues that the legalisation of gay marriage should be a concern for all citizens, not just within Indiana, but within the USA as a whole. He states, "I believe the legislation of gay marriage should be a concern for all people in our society...The discrimination that gay couples are subject to everyday is completely unethical and morally wrong. As intelligent compassionate Christians, who care about the marginalised around us, we should recognise this as a social justice issue."

Kraybill uses the example of the gay couple Bill Flanigan and Robert Daniels to reinforce his argument. The pair were registered as domestic partners, as they were unable to legally wed in their home state of California. Regardless, Kraybill states that they did everything they could to achieve the same legal status as heterosexual couples. On a trip to Washington D.C, Robert became unwell and was rushed to hospital. When Bill asked to see Robert and talk to his doctor, Bill was refused as the hospital said that he was not 'part of Robert's family.' Kraybill notes that even with legal documentation (their registered domestic partnership) the hospital still denied him the right to see Robert. It was not until Robert's immediate family arrived, that Bill was granted access. By that time Robert was intensive care and died a few days later. The importance of this is the injustice and segregation that homosexual people suffer everyday. Kraybill also notes how in 2004, the US General Accounting Office released a report stating that there are over 1,000 individual rights and benefits which homosexual people are denied, rights that heterosexual people receive. What is paramount here is that Kraybill is not just arguing for the legislation of same sex marriage, but for equality between man, irrespective of sexual preference.

Furthermore, Kraybill also argues the misconceptions that many Americans view towards homosexuality in general. He argues that a lot of homophobia is based on a lack of knowledge and understanding about the subject. Indeed, this is could be argued to be true, particularly through the Anti-Gay legislation, the proposed 'Don't Teach Gay' bill and the view that if children do not learn about homosexuality, they will not 'become gay'. It is the prejudices that surround the subject, and the fact that people follow them, which distorts the views towards the subject. In effect, it is this which confuses people and children, and not homosexuality itself. Being gay is not a bad thing. It is the discrimination against it which creates the ideology that it is something bad and should not happen. These legislation acts could be seen to only further increase this lack of knowledge and enhance the oppressions that surround homosexuality. Not only this, Kraybill also argues how being homosexual is not a choice and uses his own personal experience to further reinforce this - "I didn't wake up one day and say to myself 'Hey, I think I'll be gay!' The reality is I'm just attracted to the same gender as myself, not because I chose it, but that's because of who I am."

In general, Kraybill's belief is that one of the key steps towards equality is the legislation of same sex marriage. He argues that this legislation would start many homosexual couples on a 'path of change' - a path that would encourage gay and lesbian people to be themselves, without feeling the need or pressure to hide their true identity. For homosexual people to be treated as equals, would allow for acceptance and equality within society. The reference of Bill and Robert's story undoubtedly portrays the significance of the inequality and prejudices that many gay couples still face today. In the words of Kraybill, homosexuality is "... not just a theoretical problem that can be shoved under the carpet. We are alive. And our rights are being denied."

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Gay Identity

'The David Pakman Show' discusses the issues surrounding the anti-gay legislation which was proposed in Tennessee in 2011. The 'Don't Teach Gay' bill, if passed, would mean that public and elementary schools would be unable to teach children about homosexuality in any form, instead only heterosexuality would be taught. This bill was proposed by state senator Stacey Campfield, who was unwilling to respond to the request to talk on the radio show. Gay people in America are unable to experience freedom from discrimination if those in high authoritative positions, such as Campfield, discriminate against them, because laws can be passed which will effect the gay community.

The talk show presenter Lewis questions, 'What is the logic here, if they' (the children) 'don't know about it they won't become gay?' Campfield seems to hold this view, however it is extremely unlikely that the lack of education on homosexuality will prevent people from experiences feelings of homosexuality, because it is a natural occurrence, rather than a choice a person makes. However, if the law is passed, the youth of Tennessee will be unable to express their true identity, in fear of being different and also in fear of discrimination, or possibly worse.

The law would force those within schools, such as teachers and principles, to hold the same views as Campfield on homosexuality. Therefore, youths experiencing feelings of homosexuality would 'literally have no-one to discuss it with.' The prejudice against gay people would increase and the support for gay people would decrease.Pakman states that there is scientific evidence to prove that 'early detections of the signs of depression can help prevent suicides.' If even psychiatrists are forced to limit their role within schools by not being able to discuss homosexuality, these youths would become isolated from society, as they attempt to discover their identity without any assistance. This seems incomprehensible, seeing as teachers are supposed to educate children as well as support them. In addition, school is not simply about learning, as it also involves learning about oneself and developing one's identity.

Pakman attempts to understand the purpose behind the proposal, by questioning if the bill would create 'a more moral environment, a more Christian environment?' The bill clearly shows Campfield's strong Republican views, because his aim may be to allow the Bible to be more closely followed amongst the youth. For example, God teaches Moses, 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22. The conflict between homosexuality and religion is still evident in contemporary USA today, because the country is still largely religious. Therefore, it could be argued that if an American is gay, they are disobeying the Bible and consequently disobeying the word of God. This would make them immoral and as a result, their true identity should be hidden from society as they provide an unhealthy example to others.

The legislation 'does bring up issues of free speech,' because teachers would be controlled, when instead they should be allowed freedom to a certain extent in what they can teach. But moreover, the youths themselves will be unable to discuss homosexuality, even though freedom of speech is a right within the Constitution. The absence of homosexuality within schools would hinder education instead of improving it, because gays exist within America therefore youths need to be taught about their presence. This law implies that gay people are unworthy of being discussed, but in reality, gays are able to become successful and exercise intelligence just like anyone else. For example, 'would a school library be failing to comply with the law if there was a book on the shelf where a character is gay?' The work of gay people should be used within schools because it offers a broader insight into the world we live in. Children should not be taught to view the world from a narrow-minded perspective. If America is truly the land of freedom and democracy, gay identity should be recognised rather than ignored.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Making Ends Meet

Dorothy Gallagher writes for the New York Times in 2001 about the book Nickel and Dimed, which was published in the same year. Within the article, she makes note of the prosperity that was felt in 1998, when Ehrenreich's social experiment took place, however, she also points out the fact that there was a welfare reform meaning that a large portion of the American working class would no longer be able to survive and make a living wage on $6 or $7 an hour.

Ehrenreich therefore decided to work undercover as an unskilled labourer looking to make a living after a recent divorce which had forced her back into employment. It could be argued, therefore, that Ehrenreich could not possibly understand the full extent of the struggles faced by these low-wage earners and would never receive an unbiased view. However, Gallagher points out in her critique of Nickel and Dimed that Ehrenreich is aware of this.
''So,'' she writes, ''this is not a story of some death-defying 'undercover' adventure. Almost anyone could do what I did -- look for jobs, work those jobs, try to make ends meet. In fact, millions of Americans do it every day, and with a lot less fanfare and dithering.''
Gallagher continues to discuss the content of Ehrenreich's book and draws the conclusions that the wages are too low and the rents too high in America. By discussing Ehrenreich's interactions with fellow co-workers and learning about their living situations, it is clear to see that there is a vast gap between the low-wage earners and the middle class. As Gallagher notes:
Ehrenreich's picture of the working poor was taken during the best of times. Yet the comforting economic clich├ęs offered by our pundits failed even under those boom conditions: a rising tide does not lift all boats; trickledown economics stops just south of the middle class.
Here, she agrees with Ehrenreich's conclusions of a corrupt nature within American society and how the system is governed. Without the benefits of welfare, people working unskilled jobs will be unable to afford rent and thus will either become homeless, end up paying through the nose for a motel room, or have to take on a second job. For those who have children to take care of, this is simply not an option for them. Gallagher concludes that Nickel and Dimed has highlighted the plight of the working class and makes it undeniably clear that the many suffer for the benefit of the few.
We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America's working poor so clearly and directly, and conveying with it a deep moral outrage and a finely textured sense of lives as lived. As Michael Harrington was, she is now our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism.
However, as Ehrenreich's book was written over ten years ago, it is possible to argue that there hasn't been much change in the class system and that member of the working class in America still struggle every day, having to choose between necessities such as food or rent, health care or child care. In conclusion, Nickel and Dimed becomes a call to arms, a wake up call for policy makers, should they read the book, as well as the working class themselves. The main message that is received from the book is that this is not okay and this is not normal, but it is, in a way, in the hands of those directly affected by the wages who can help themselves out of the situation.