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Worth Your Time

June 15, 2010

Reform or Renounce?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former Dutch parliamentarian and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is clear about one thing: There is no hope for Muslim women who do not renounce their faith.  According to Hirsi Ali, Muslim women–constricted by Islam–cannot be feminists, live independently, enjoy their sexuality or escape the mental shackles that bind their intellect…So now, Ali is in America and finds herself in a political conundrum. She is a feminist, but she is at a conservative collective, The American Enterprise Institute, which rarely, if ever, supports feminist concerns. The result resonates with the kind of opportunism seen too often at political think tanks.


For Better or Worse: Exporting American Ideas of Insanity

Though “madness” has never been an exclusively American phenomenon, some of the illnesses popularized in America (like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia) are spreading like wildfire — along with their (drug-heavy) therapies. Accordingly, says Watters, “Indigenous forms of mental illness and healing are being bulldozed by disease categories and treatments made in the USA.”


Struggles

In my case, I’ve experienced both privilege and oppression with my identity and family background. For instance, while folks in the Filipino community might easily classify me as one of them, this isn’t the case for those outside this community. Filipinos are so underrepresented in the media and other forms of public representation that people don’t seem to understand what it means to be a dark-skinned Asian. They seem to only think of East Asia when they hear “Asian” (as if the region of Southeast Asia doesn’t exist!). I’ve gotten Latino, Chinese, Indian–you name it. (And to be fair, I’ve inherited some of my father’s bi-racial characteristics which further confounds people.) There’s a sort of erasure and concomitant exotification that occurs just by virtue of being Filipino or any other underrepresented ethnic group.


Oiled Birds: To Clean or Euthanize?

In order to wash a single pelican, you’ll need four pairs of hands (one bird rescue expert says with horror that she’d “never wash a bird alone”), a soft baby toothbrush, a handful of q-tips, a bottle of Dawn detergent (proven through “twenty years” of research to be the most effective de-oiling product), 300 gallons of hot water, and 45 minutes of your afternoon. Now multiply that by about a thousand.

This debate is just one of many unfolding between experts of all kinds in the aftermath of the spill. But it isn’t hard to imagine how this tug-of-war between optimism (think “Save the Pelicans” bumper stickers) and fatalism (“just euthanize”) might start to infiltrate other dimensions of the response effort.


Mini Case Study: How CDC Development Solutions reworked tourist development

Over its 20-year history, CDC Development Solutions (CDS) spearheaded dozens of projects to create jobs in poor countries by promoting tourism. Yet, in 2007, a humbling process of self-evaluation revealed that the D.C.-based organization could point to few concrete results.

Until recently, CDS could not prove that its tourism initiatives actually put “heads in beds” (industry lingo for people in hotel rooms) let alone boosted job creation, according to CDS Senior Advisor Alvin Rosenbaum. In one case, CDS enlisted four MBA volunteers to develop tourism in rural Nigeria. After a year’s work, Rosenbaum found “no evidence of a single naira [the Nigerian currency]” spent on tourism.

Rosenbaum says that one problem has been that funder… have dictated project goals and terms while remaining out of touch with the host country’s needs and assets. In the case of Nigeria, donors insisted on supporting international tourism—an unrealistic goal given Nigeria’s reputation as unsafe, overpriced, and lacking in tourist services.


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