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The Social Justice Warriors in the U.S. Will Exploit Anything—Even The Loss of Human Life—For Their Own Gain In the Culture Wars: In Memory of Anthony Bourdain

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I have often written about the ongoing culture war in both the United States and Turkey, and today I continue in this vein.

Sadly, the great travel journalist and chef Anthony Bourdain passed away on 8 June 2018 from an apparent suicide in France. As an intrepid traveler who did not shy away from visiting the most obscure of places, I always respected Mr. Bourdain for what he stood for in terms of travel and its importance in terms of truly bringing cultures together. Yet, the devaluation of human life in the modern age continues as even this tragic death is already being exploited by social justice warriors (SJW) in the main(lame)stream media.

Instead of focusing on how Mr. Bourdain’s death is a tragic reflection on our own twisted society, the culture industry chose to exploit this tragedy for its own gain. Suicide rates in the U.S. have risen 30 percent since 1999—the years in which the “New World Order” has truly taken hold—despite the fact that we, ostensibly, live in a “prosperous” and “peaceful time”. Of those suicides, it was found that in a shocking 42% of cases the main factor was “relationship problems”. If we are “modern” and indeed “progressing”—as the progressives would have it—then why are we more alone than ever, so alone that suicide rates are skyrocketing? French Sociologist Emile Durkheim would have certainly asked this question, and I will attempt to answer it.

 

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Tragic Statistics. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/suicide-rates-are-30-percent-1999-cdc-says-n880926

 

Perhaps it is because people have forgotten the balance that is crucial for human life to not only thrive, but even merely to survive. In his book Sport Matters, Sociologist Eric Dunning points this out:

Centrally involved in the maturation and growing autonomy of a person is a process of individualization during the course of which he/she gradually learns to think of himself/herself as an ‘I’, to acquire an identity and sense of self [. . .] one of the preconditions for the occurrence of individualization in what is considered in modern societies to be a ‘healthy’ way is the formation of bonds with others that are neither too distant nor too close and in which a balance is struck between autonomy and dependence. It is a question of forming a socially appropriate ‘we—I balance’ (Elias, 1991a) in which a person comes to be considered by others as neither too self-absorbed nor too dependent on the groups to which he/she belongs (Dunning 1999: 4).

It seems that many in modern society have lost this balance. People are all too ready to hide behind their “intersectional” identity and play the game of identity politics, rather than recognize that—as individuals—they are also part of a larger collective. This has confused some people to the point that they even—legitimately—believe that eating food out of bowls is a “hot new trend”. I suppose many people have just never visited archeology museums—and saw the ancient bowls on display—and thus believe that this can be something new, but I digress.

The point is to show that the void created by a rootless and cultureless “global” society has left people alienated and clinging to any identity that will take them: white, black, man, woman, transgender, gay straight, bowl food eater, or even craft beer lover. One way to alleviate this could, of course, be an embrace of elective identities which are not exclusive. National identity is one; one can choose to be a citizen of their country or not but one cannot choose to have a certain skin color, for instance. The former is elective, the latter is not. Yet when Mr. Trump chose to hold a “celebration of America” day after the NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles chose to reject the U.S. President’s invitation to the White House, the main(lame) stream media was appalled. Why being an American—and being proud of it—is an issue I will never know, but it is an important question to ask as the world collapses into a million pieces of small—and often insignificant—intersectional identities.

We must recognize that it is the culture industry which encourages this fracturing of society; in fact it is encouraged at every single turn. Unfortunately, Mr. Bourdain’s death is a perfect example of this despicable and tasteless exploitation. Malaika Jabali, writing for Glamour Magazine, provides the latest example of poor quality journalism in her 8 June 2018 piece “Why Anthony Bourdain’s Life Is a Lesson for White Men of Privilege on How to Be an Ally”. In the article, Jabali throws out SJW keywords like a dealer throws cards down in Vegas: Without thinking about the negative consequences while knowing full well that no one will object.

 

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Hey Glamour, Here Is an Idea: Stick to Fashion And Stay Away From Pop Culture and Politics. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.glamour.com

 

Jabali tells us that Bourdain was an “ally”, that he “was one who fundamentally believed in, and fought for, people at the margins even when hashtags weren’t trending”. To support her claims, she presents a few of Mr. Bourdain’s comments (posthumously). She writes:

 

On Latino immigration in America, Bourdain once stated: “The bald fact is that the entire restaurant industry in America would close down overnight, would never recover, if current immigration laws were enforced quickly and thoroughly across the board. Everyone in the industry knows this. It is undeniable. Illegal labor is the backbone of the service and hospitality industry—Mexican, Salvadoran and Ecuadoran in particular…. Let’s at least try to be honest when discussing this issue.”

This was in 2007, before Trump’s walls or the fervent pitch of nationalist rhetoric reached its ascendance.

 

Jabali also offers Mr. Bourdain’s views on the Opioid crisis:

Now that the white captain of the football team and his cheerleader girlfriend in small-town America are hooked on dope, maybe we’ll now stop demonizing heroin as a criminal problem and start dealing with it as the medical and public-health problem that it is, and should be.

 

What is very interesting here is that neither of the quotes attributed to Mr. Bourdain actually espouse the SJW mentality. Regarding illegal immigration, Mr. Bourdain was merely pointing out what all sensible non SJWs might say: that illegal immigration should be ended because it is glorified slave labor (a topic I have touched on). Regarding the opioid crisis, Mr. Bourdain is just pointing out something fairly obvious: small town America is being destroyed by drugs which feed on an unemployed population which has been gutted by globalism (another topic I have written about before).

The reason I point this out is not to interpret the words of Mr. Bourdain after he has departed; to do that would be to stoop to the level of Glamour and Ms. Jabali. Rather, I point this out because Ms. Jabali’s article is an ideological con-job; an example of the main(lame)stream media’s attempts to shape public opinion by using celebrities (even after they are dead) to further their own agenda. In the modern world—where respect and morals matter little—this should not be too surprising. But we owe it to ourselves to see through the chicanery and punish the charlatans in the media for being unable to appreciate people—like Mr. Bourdain—for who they are. Mr. Bourdain was an intrepid traveler who taught the world—far better than I can on this small blog—that it is only by travel that we can truly understand all the different cultures and people of the world. Glamour and Ms. Jabali should be ashamed of themselves; may Mr. Bourdain rest in peace.

 

In Memoriam Anthony Bourdain 1956-2018

 

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A Travel Legend. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/anthony-bourdain-suicide-cnn-host-and-celebrity-chef-anthony-bourdain-kills-himself-1864565

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Real Face of “Globalism”: A Road Trip Through the American South

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In my writing I have argued before that travel is an important tool for understanding the modern world. Travel provides first-hand knowledge (as opposed to the second-hand knowledge often taught in schools) about different cultures and nationalities. In short, travel makes the meaningless catch words of “diversity” and “tolerance” much more meaningful because the “generalized other” (to borrow George Herbert Meade’s term) to whom we are being told to be “tolerant” of is actually a living, real, human being, rather than a caricature of an individual who merely looks phenotypically different. It is one thing to teach me about, say, “Egyptian culture”; it is a wholly other thing to travel to Cairo and actually converse with—and hang out with—Egyptians in their everyday lives. This is the real job of Sociology; it is to understand and bring people together; it is not to socially engineer—and divide people—further from one another.

In the spirit of some of my recent Memorial Day posts, I will tell the story of my most recent travels which took me through the original United States, tracing a route through most of the original 13 colonies of the Untied States: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia (and West Virginia, once part of the original Virginia colony), Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. With each small southern town I stopped in, visiting antique stores, I could not help but think about my K-12 education. It had painted a picture of the American south as an area that is intolerant, racist, and underdeveloped (along with a slew of other—mainly insulting—adjectives). Yet, in reality, the American south is none of these things. In fact, it is a much more inviting place than, say, the urban sprawl that characterizes so much of New Jersey and Connecticut; a drive on I-81 through Virginia and up to Pennsylvania is a welcome respite from the stresses of life, while a parallel drive on I-95 through Virginia to the New Jersey Turnpike is a masochistic endeavor.

 

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I-81 in Virginia. Images Courtesy Of the Author.

 

A trip through the small towns of the United States tell the story of a geography which has been gutted by globalism. In the United States, we have become unable to take care of our own middle classes. This, in itself, is a major problem.  Jobs have been outsourced to China, and to Mexico, while illegal drugs flow from both countries into the United States—and they are drugs targeted at those who have most been affected by globalization: the unemployed in rural areas (Indeed, Fentonyl—a major killer—is being sent to the United States from China; in effect China is killing America’s most vulnerable people both economically and chemically). Our country is rotting from the inside, and no one seems to care enough to save it. To those on the coasts, they are just uneducated rednecks. To those in the heartland, they are just pretentious yuppie liberals. But in the end, both groups consume the same drugs produced in Chinese laboratories and suffer the same tragic consequences.

 

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Small Southern Towns, Gutted by Globalism’s Attacks on Domestic Industry as a Result of Policies Favorable to International Capital. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

Despite the fact that our society is so clearly failing, in the universities the supposed “educated” portion of the population is finding it “cool” to hate America because of “injustices” committed in the past. But, of course, this begs one serious question: Can you really make something better if you hate it to begin with?

With these points in mind as I drove through the pastoral beauty of rural Virginia, I had to ask myself: If we do not change our own collective perspective, are we—as Americans—not in danger of becoming heirs to a “failed state”? While the term “failed state” is often thrown around at will by main(lame) stream media networks in defining foreign nations, could the same term not be used to describe the future of the United States if we are not careful? It is certainly an important question to ask, while we still have time to turn it around.

 

Is American Society Becoming Failed State?

Like Failed States, The United States Cannot Control the Border: At the end of April 2018, an immigrant “caravan” streamed towards the U.S. Border from Central America. The sight of these individuals, straddling the border fence, gives the impression of a country that has little to no control over its own borders. If this were to happen in another country—like, perhaps, Afghanistan—it is quite likely that the main(lame) stream media would brand it a “failed state”.

 

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An Absurd Sight. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/members-immigrant-caravan-asylum-process-180501065056337.html

 

Like Failed States, there is no Rule of Law in the United States: Unfortunately, since 2016, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty has reached record heights. In the first five months of 2018, almost forty members of American law enforcement have been killed while supporting their communities. Regardless of what one thinks about law enforcement, no well-meaning citizen should have to go home from work in a body bag.

Like a Failed State, the Education System is in Shambles: As an educator myself, I can see just how deep the crisis goes in American higher education. There is censorship—I have been rebuked multiple times for even daring to voice some of the opinions found on this blog—but the crisis goes much deeper than just my own experiences. Indeed, the United States has become a country which offers college degrees in “gender studies” while other countries still focus on developing real and tangible skills, like engineering. I liken going into debt for a gender studies degree to paying a scalper 5,000 dollars for a ticket to a sold-out football game only to be given a seat with an obstructed view behind a column. In both scenarios, the consumer ends up paying more than the original price for a very inferior product.

Like a Failed State, the Healthcare System is in Shambles: The United States cannot seem to agree on a working healthcare system, and that is something that—it seems—Americans can agree on regardless of their own ideological positions. Yet, after centralized healthcare showed its negative sides in the United Kingdom during the Alfie Evans case, the Washington Post chose to fan the flames of political sectarianism by publishing a piece by a graduate student (!) connecting the unfortunate death of a child to the bogeyman of 21st America, conservative ideology. That no constructive debate can be had regarding something as fundamental to humanity as healthcare shows just how dangerous the American situation has become.

Like a Failed State, the United States is Riven by Divisions Based on Ethnicity, Race, Sexual Orientation, Gender, and Ideology: How is it that our country has become more reminiscent of the so-called “third world” or “developing countries” which the mainstream media so often ridicules? I despise these terms simply because they mean nothing in actuality; there is no quality which makes one country (and more especially one group of countries) superior to another. Rather, these are descriptions used by a globalist intellectual class to institute a divide and rule policy around the world. Domestically, this process manifests itself in poorer countries by dividing different clans against one another (as in the most famous of failed states, Somalia) or different ethnic groups (as we saw in Afghanistan) just as it divides different groups of people in the United States on the basis of such dubious lines as race, sexual orientation, and even sexuality itself! During a conversation with an EMT at a local university, I learned that some students—when taken to an ambulance—object to being labeled by the gender they physically represent because they “identify” with another gender. While this is ok in theory, it does not work so well in practice simply because modern medicine requires knowledge about gender (and sexuality) in order to provide the best care possible. And just like such students may be shooting themselves in the proverbial foot by resorting to identity politics at any opportunity, might we—as a nation—be doing the same?

 

Given that the United States is so close to becoming a failed state—riddled by censorship in academia and the divisions of identity politics—is it not time that we, collectively, make an attempt to turn it around? It is my hope that on this Memorial Day, in 2018, that we start to move in the right direction; we will never be able to erase the wrongs of the past but we—as the people—have all the power to prevent the same wrongs from being repeated in the future. We owe it to those who fought for our country in the past, we owe it to those who aim to build a life in our country in the future, and–most importantly–we owe it to ourselves in the present.

 

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A Marginal Sociologist on The Double Edged Sword of Technology

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While sitting at a local bar, I notice a couple uniformed police approaching patrons. Soon they are at my table, explaining that they are doing a “study” on drunk driving. I oblige, if only because I believe that social studies are interesting—and important—in terms of understanding our societies. Yet, I cannot help but wonder what will the data be used for?

Preventing drunk driving is, of course, a good use of data. Yet so many studies are done daily—and without our knowledge—in which data is continually mined. Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg in this regard; indeed Facebook and Google have collected unimaginable amounts of data on millions of people worldwide. Given that this questionable form of surveillance has affected people all over the world—regardless of their race, gender, class, sexual orientation, or whatever other intersectional identity that the Social Justice Warriors might invent—one could say that we all are equal in the face of corporate surveillance.

And that is just why this form of surveillance should be resisted. There was uproar when Edward Snowden announced that the U.S. government’s National Security Agency was surveilling innocent citizens. There were even nationwide marches against gun control when the citizens felt that their lives were endangered. Yet there has been no major response to the illegal corporate surveillance of innocent individuals. Perhaps, this is because we have come to believe that what is “convenient” in the modern world is good; we are unable to recognize that it is—in actuality—a thinly-veiled form of social control. And it is a form of social control which unites us all, regardless of our “identities”.

The use of social media for advertising is nothing new, and it has become a major discussion among footballers who are looking to capitalize on new avenues for profit. While scrolling through my Instagram account I found two ads come up: both asked me (rhetorically) “summer vacation in Algeciras?”. The red flag, for me, was this sales pitch; after all, anyone who has ever heard of Algeciras will know that it is a gritty port town. The only reason for visiting Algeciras would be to get out of the city as soon as possible, en route to the North African coast. I had a hard time believing that this would be the only advertisement offered to Americans hoping to visit Spain. After all, weren’t Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Granada or Sevilla more enticing tourist destinations? Of course they are…but this advertisement was tailored to me. I had been to Algeciras. Through social media—perhaps by crunching my data, sent via text or email—the system knew the places I visited and, indeed, those I would like to return to again.

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This is, of course, creepy. It is very creepy and it should make people uncomfortable that companies—not states, who are (at least ostensibly) beholden to the people—are watching individuals with the main goal of making money. Sadly, it seems that people are more content to go along with the status quo—like sheep—than they are willing to march against this postmodern form of surveillance. If this sounds absurd, it is because it is absurd.

For all the talk of “freedom” and “tolerance” that Silicon Valley (which has shown itself to be intolerant of American conservatives) spouts, shouldn’t they resist, rather than encourage, social control? Why should our travel—whether it be to Algeciras or anywhere else—be monitored? While we might regard internal passports as a remnant of the distant past (they were common in the soviet Union), we should be aware that this new electronic surveillance amounts to the same kind of social control. Our movements—domestic and international—are constantly being tracked. Perhaps the biggest threat to human freedom in the future is not state control, but corporate control. And this is one form of control which all of us, as humans, should be united in resisting.

Road Tripping 2018: The Road Offers Both Individual and Social Catharsis in the U.S.A.

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At the end of (yet another) American road trip I am left in an all too similar emotional state; it is remarkable that—as the years go by—I feel the same at 31 as I did when I was 20 following a cross-country road trip. Sure there is the physical fatigue; the body aching from sitting from hours on end, the eyes tired from watching out for every little pothole and every piece of debris, the stomach reeling from one too many fast food meals. Yet there is also a very real mental pleasure that comes from endurance driving; I would argue that it is a pleasure that far outweighs the negatives of physical fatigue.

“Motoring”, to to speak, as a mental pleasure is a subject I have written about in the past (Please see here and here. Rarely in the modern world do we have a chance to be completely alone with our thoughts, devoid of the influences of our “smart phones” or computers. How long these days will remain ours, with self-driving cars on the horizon, is of course up for debate but it is a subject worth thinking about. That the road trip is a pensive experience is undeniable. That it is also very “American” is also undeniable. Indeed, Jack Kerouac showed just how the two are intertwined; the road trip is not only an exercise in individual thought, it is also an exercise in collective thought as well. For me, in the early days of the new year, I saw just how cathartic it can be.

On I-95 in northern New Jersey I watched the New York skyline drift by to my left, the city which, at the dawn of the last century, would become a model for urban areas the world over is now slowly decaying with each American Dollar being spent abroad on foreign policy intrigues which offer little tangible benefit to the American citizen. Meanwhile, ahead, the smokestacks of American industry send plumes of smoke into the frigid northeast sky. How much longer these industries—the bed rock of American wealth—will remain “American” is an open question as the country continually outsources industrial jobs while (attempting) to transition to a service economy, complete with under-employed servers at restaurants and white collar workers with Master’s Degrees whose main responsibility could be as banal as forwarding e-mails for eight hours a day.

 

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“On I-95 in northern New Jersey I watched the New York skyline drift by to my left . . . ” . Image Courtesy Of The Author.

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“Meanwhile, ahead, the smokestacks of American industry send plumes of smoke into the frigid northeast sky . . . “. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Off I-95 in the American South I found that antique shops have become one of the main tourist attractions in rural areas which have been devastated by the attacks on American industry. As industry moves overseas, the production of raw materials has similarly collapsed. A little later, in South Carolina, I stop by the “tourist trap” that is South of the Border, a kitschy attraction built in 1950 on the North Carolina/South Carolina line to (perhaps) offer some respite to families from the monotony of endurance driving. Yet, according to State Media’s Washington Post, South of the border is “Un-Pc”, even “racist”; the author compares it to Donald Trump for its offensiveness, racism, consumerism, and garishness.

 

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“Off I-95 in the American South I found that antique shops have become one of the main tourist attractions in rural areas which have been devastated by the attacks on American industry . . .”. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Of course, the offense took by the Washington Post staff writer is part and parcel for mainstream media in the United States these days; it is much easier to hate than actually take the time to wonder. It is one-dimensional thought at its finest in the offended states of America.

Perhaps it was the weather; the snow on the ground—in front of a beach shop advertising Myrtle Beach—made an already absurd place even more absurd (as if such a thing were possible). Yet it is possible, because this is America. This is a country in which car culture—and the road tripping that goes with it—is embedded in us as Americans. This is a country that expanded westward (with all of its unfortunate violence), this is a country that was founded on the ethos of “the open road”. How much longer will tourist traps like South of the Border exist? Children no longer need to alleviate their boredom on the road with kitschy tourist attractions, they have their ipads and iphones and TV sets in the headrests of their parents’ Suburbans and Escalades. Yet, while this may be convenient (for parents), it denies children the chance to experience one of the magical things about road trips: Understanding their own country. In the past, kids might have played games in the car—like spotting license plates from different states. In the past, kids might have–**GASP**–gotten out of the car at a road side attraction in order to actually interact with someone living in a different part of the country. All of these actions, in the past, served to reinforce one very real thing that the social engineers in academia and the media have tried to deny over the years: It is that America does, indeed, have a culture.

 

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South Of The Border is an Absurd Place Made Even More Absurd By the Snow on the Ground in South Carolina. Perhaps the Ice Cream Shop Was the Only Shop Whose Image Was Enhanced by the Presence of Snow Below the Mason-Dixon Line. Images Courtesy of the Author.

 

Whether or not this culture is “good” is not up for debate here; I would be the last person to argue that rampant consumerism and extreme capitalism are good things for the human soul. And, like French Sociologist Michel Foucault, I would hesitate to argue that anything is inherently “good”; what is good for one person may not be from another person’s perspective. Rather, I argue that there is—and must be—one thing that ties us together as Americans, whether we live in Seattle, Washington or Bangor, Maine; San Diego, California or Minneapolis, Minnesota; Amarillo, Texas or Ocala, Florida. That one thing is, of course, our culture—and a respect for it.

On this particular road trip, I was taken by the fact that our car culture is very real; I was able to drive 1,200 miles (almost 2,000 kilometers) without having to use my horn once (as someone who has driven in many different countries, and undertaken many road trips in the United States, this is no small accomplishment). There is, for most people at least, an unspoken respect that driving on an Interstate highway produces: We are all going somewhere, individually (as Americans are conditioned to do) and let us try to interfere as little as possible with others who are doing the same thing (another thing Americans are conditioned to do). Perhaps this is a throwback to an earlier America, a time when one of the country’s major news outlets—like the aforementioned Washington Post—was not owned by a corporate leader like Jeff Bezos (of course, this fact alone should make people think twice if they think The Washington Post is an independent news outlet working in the best interests of the public: it is not).

As I drove on, the miles of rural America flying past me like the pages of a flipbook, I certainly had ample time to think. I thought about how America, in its vastness, can make a person feel small, powerless. Perhaps for some this is true; perhaps that is why we see so many Americans seek solace in identity politics. Yet for me, it is quite the opposite. In a smaller country, a citizen can be content with their role as citizen-receiver; the country is small, the people are more or less homogenous, the citizen can live their lives in (relative) assurance that the state has the ability to look out for them. In the United States, on the other hand, the country is big and it is far from homogenous. Yet this offers the individual a chance to be big as well. It is up to you, the citizen, to act on the purported values of your country. Every individual has a responsibility to treat their fellow citizens with respect, fairness, equality, and dignity. In a big country, every individual must—everyday—act on the purported values of their country by supporting small businesses in their community, opening the doors for fellow patrons and—yes—obeying the rules of the road. The state will not do this, despite how many times it may recount the virtues of “freedom” and “democracy”. It is up to the individual citizen to ensure that “freedom” and “democracy” are more than just words.

This is what true nationalism is. It is not blind patriotism, it is not accepting everything the state says with unquestioning loyalty, and it is not the chauvinistic idea that your country is somehow “better” than the rest. Rather it is an active attempt to, everyday, make life easier for one’s fellow citizens, for those with whom you share a living space, regardless of which particular identity they may have at any given moment. As John F. Kennedy once famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. It is these values which unite us as Americans; it is these values that are the ties that bind us and these values which are stronger than that which seeks to divide us. In other countries as well, there are certain values which unite citizens; although the era of globalism has tried to erode these it is up to individual citizens—regardless of their nationality—to embrace their country’s values and their country’s cultures so as to resist the impersonal forces of global capital which contend with the nation-state for the citizens’ loyalties.

 

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John F. Kennedy. Image Courtesy Of: http://chatafrik.com/special/memorable-speech/ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-you-by-john-f-kennedy#.WlRx0jOZPRg

 

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It is Up to All of Us, Regardless of Where we are From, to Explore Our Own Countries. It Is Also Our Responsibility to Assist Those Who Travel to Our Countries, Since International Travel Is Also Necessary For Gaining a Useful Perspective On the World. Image Courtesy Of: https://mxd.dk/mxd-viden/a-brief-overview-of-the-us-music-market/

Travel Assistance: Some Tips For U.S. Citizens Trying to Procure a Visa for Travel to Turkey

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slide-1.jpgNot So Easy Anymore, but Its Still Possible! Image Courtesy Of: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

 

After having multiple Kafkaesque experiences at the Turkish consulate while trying to procure a Turkish visa for my father and brother during the bizarre visa spat between Turkey and the United States, I have decided to provide a few tips for U.S. citizens who want to travel to Turkey during these strange times. It is my hope that this information will be helpful not only to my fellow Americans, but also to the staff of Turkish consulates in the United States, since they have been working overtime to meet the demand of a new visa regime that hitherto has not existed between the two countries lucky (!) enough to call this marginal sociologist a citizen.

Before offering my tips, I will first offer my own analysis of this bizarre geopolitical spat. While waiting for my visas to be processed, one of the people waiting insinuated that this international issue could be blamed on the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump; given that this interpretation is frequently churned out by the mainstream media I was not entirely surprised to hear it. The only issue with this kind of surface level media analysis is that it has no bearing in reality. In fact, it is likely that the visa spat was created by the State Department without the direct knowledge of President Trump; the U.S. State Department—which Hillary Clinton used to head—is filled with holdovers from the previous presidency (regime?) of Barack Obama. As I have noted before, Hillary Clinton was also a known supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the shady Islamic cleric who the U.S. shelters and the Turkish government blames for the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.

Given these intrigues it is likely that this visa crisis was fabricated by a portion of the State Department, following the arrest of a Turkish national employed at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul who was suspected of having a role in the failed putsch, in order to create a roadblock for President Trump in international relations. Of course, the fact that the United States came out so strongly in support of a foreign national employed at a U.S. consulate amounts to a tacit admission that the Obama government may have had a hand in the events of 15 July 2016 (perhaps fomenting coups in democracies is part of what President Obama meant when he told his successor “American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It’s up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend”.  Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was all to willing to run with the visa spat in order to use it for his own gains: Mr. Erdogan is trying to re-fashion himself as a nationalist—not globalist—leader following the rise of populism and nationalism in both the United States and Great Britain. In responding to the United States’ halting of visa applications for Turkish citizens in kind, Mr. Erdogan is bolstering his nationalist credentials. There are, however, a few issues with this.

The first is that Turkey did not exactly respond to the United States’ move in kind; this was not a reciprocal move. Although the consulate stressed to me that the 160$ fee (the old e-visa on arrival was 20$, by contrast) is part of the reciprocity since that is the fee the U.S. charges Turks for visas, the visas offered are not in anyway similar. While the U.S. generally grants 10-year multiple-entry visas, the visas I got were single-entry, valid for just 15 days in a six-month period. In other words, in order for a U.S. citizen to get multiple-entry visas valid for 10 years they would have to pay 4,000$ (200$ x 2 for 12 months, x 10 for 10 years)! Additionally, the United States charges exorbitant fees because the visa process involves background checks and interviews; the Turkish process does not. Still—despite it all—Americans have to realize that citizens of most of the world’s countries need visas to enter the United States (or the European Union, for that matter).

The second issue is that President Erdogan is no less globalist than he was before. In fact, it is almost as if this visa spat was manufactured (by both the State Department and the Turkish state) in order to provide the world with an example of what the end of the “globalist” utopia—really a dystopia—would look like if bilateral visas were implemented worldwide. It is almost like Turkey is being used as an experimental “pilot” case, because this visa spat has been just that bizarre.

Despite all the oddities and diplomatic wrangling, the important thing to recognize from all of this is that draconian visa rules need not be the future in international relations; the only ones who will suffer from this game are normal citizens looking to travel and the consular employees who will have to work overtime to deliver visas. Therefore, it is essential that we separate “the government” from “the nation”. “Nationalism” as a concept does not mean agreeing with everything your government does; blind patriotism is not “nationalism”. It is our job to understand that and hold our leaders’ collective feet to the proverbial fire when they do things that do not reflect well on shared national values (like, for instance, fomenting a violent civil war in Syria without accomplishing anything, something both Turkey and the United States have been guilty of despite their anti-imperialist nationalist pasts). Government exists to provide a safe environment for all of its citizens with the least amount of regulation as possible. The government should not exist to provide handouts to all of its citizens, for instance, but it does exist to help those who are unable to help themselves—the disabled for instance who are not able to gain employment otherwise. Of course, this visa spat is not an example of less government regulation but, the way I see it, it is part of the effort to thwart the rising tide of nationalism against the globalist project.

Since I believe in nationalism as a global force—respect your country and others within a global system of equals and not the tiered system of unequals (divided into “first” world and the rest) that globalization has created—I will offer my advice to fellow travelers whose only goal is to see the world by helping them navigate the complicated Turkish visa process. Since Turkey was not prepared for this upsurge in visa applications from the United States, it is my hope that I can help both my fellow Americans looking to visit Turkey and my fellow Turks working hard in consulates across the United States. Although the visa spat is likely to be resolved soon since the U.S. finally ended funding to Kurdish forces in Syria—which had been a cynical attempt to further ethnic strife in the Middle East without decisively ending the ISIS/ISIL/DAESH threat—I still hope that whatever advice I can offer will be of help.

In order to combat the fake “tolerance” of different cultures and faux “diversity” pushed by progressive adherents of globalization, it is critical that we all travel (as I’ve written before, I believe that travel should be incorporated into all higher education in the United States). Travelling to cultures different from our own—and meeting those who speak languages different from our own—is a truly humbling experience. When one finds themselves pointing and grunting for food at local restaurants, from Abidjan to Vladivostok and everywhere in between, one will realize that we’re not all that different: we all have to eat, after all! And, whether one is sitting at a tea house in Istanbul, an ahwa in Cairo, a café in Vienna, a taverna in Thessaloniki, or a pub in London, one might get the opportunity to actually speak to someone—another human—and get a new perspective on life. For all of its technology and ability to “bring people together” digitally, globalized networks like Facebook and Instagram do little to actually bring people together on a human level. But travel does.

We are all human, we all have similar wants and desires no matter the language we speak, the culture we were raised in, or the country whose name is written on our passports. Travel allows us to see this first hand, it allows us to see our world for what it is for ourselves. What emerges through travel is a world much different than that which the globalist agenda tries to sell us: the image of the world as sold through globalization is one of rich countries and poor countries, a divided world where—for some reason—residents of richer countries are supposed to feel sorry for those in poorer countries while also being expected to feel guilt for their roles in the imperialism of the past. By this twisted logic, those in the richer countries are expected to open their borders to those from poorer countries, in order to provide them with “opportunity”. Of course, this structure is nothing more than a modern day “white man’s burden”; it is a modern justification for a modern imperialism no less exploitative and no less racist than that of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Just like in the imperialist world of the past, this modern day world is divided by “rich” and “poor” countries as globalization perpetuates the prosperity of the former and poverty of the latter.

In order to break away from this process it is first essential to travel. By traveling we will both be able to take a critical view of our own societies (in order to improve)—while America is a great place to live I have also learned that there are many positive aspects of Turkish society that I wish existed in the United States—while also understanding that, as people, we are not all that different. I can recall great experiences from my own travel laughing together with people whose languages I did not know about the absurdities of daily life—an angry shopper at a grocery store or the poor driving of a careless driver in traffic. That we share these similarities does not, however, meant that we are at all homogeneous. We have different cultures and nationalities which must be preserved as the resistance to a worldwide technocratic form of government which looks to make our shared values and morality no longer human, but tied to the consumerist logic of smartphones and shopping malls; it is a world where Cairo’s ahwas and Lisbon’s pastry shops would be replaced by Starbuck’s and its corporate logic. I shiver at the thought.

With that out of the way, here are my tips for procuring a Turkish visa. As I said, it is my hope that my advice will be helpful not only to Americans but also to Turks and any other travelers who wish to see the world for what it is: Not a homogeneous globalized world run by corporate interests but a heterogeneous world of many nations, cultures, and traditions.

  • The website where U.S. nationals can apply for a Turkish visa is: https://www.konsolosluk.gov.tr/Visa. Please make sure to complete the online application and upload all necessary documents that are requested because, otherwise, the application will not let you move onto the next page. If you do not have a digital version of any of the necessary documents, just take a picture of the hard copy with your smartphone (I’m assuming that most people have one in today’s world) and upload that. For instance, if you do not have a digital version of your passport photos you can just take a picture of the hard copy and upload that.
  • In the “name” section of the application, it has boxes for the “first name” and “surname”. While Americans may not be used to acknowledging their middle names, often times passports will include them since—like a birth certificate—a passport is a citizenship document. This is why applicants must write their name EXACTLY as it appears on the passport. This means including what ever is written in the “name” section of the passport in the “first name” box of the application and what ever is written in the “surname” section of the passport in the “surname” box of the application. This is crucial since the name on the visa must match the name on the passport.
  • The Turkish visa application requires travel insurance. While this may be purchased from third party companies, most insurance policies provided by U.S. employers will cover care abroad through reimbursement (Just remember to save the receipts of any care overseas). Therefore, a photocopy of your insurance card should be enough for the purposes of the visa application. Bring whatever documents you have to the consulate; upload a picture of the documents (that you can snap with your smart phone) to the application in the proper space.
  • Provide a bank statement or a document to prove direct deposit information from your financial institution with your application. Again, bring whatever documents you have to the consulate; upload a picture of the documents (that you can snap with your smart phone) to the application in the proper space.
  • Bring photocopies of your passport, specifically the photo page which carries your personal information.
  • Children under 18, who are not travelling with both parents, will need permission (from the parent who is not traveling) to travel internationally. This can be obtained by writing a statement like “I, (name), (relation to child—mother, father, etc), give permission for (child’s name) to travel to Turkey on (dates of travel) with (name of travel companion)”. Remember to get this document notarized by a notary public and the country clerk of your place of residence. Please do not forget to bring this document with you when you go to your appointment at the consulate.
  • Most importantly bring cash, since credit cards and personal checks are not accepted. The fee, at the time of writing, was 160$ for a single entry visa and 200$ for a multiple-entry visa. If at all possible, bring exact change because the consulate did not seem to have change the day that I visited.

Hopefully, everything works out and you have a safe trip to Turkey. As I have already elaborated, I believe that things will be relaxed in the near future but—just in case they do not relax—treat this post as a small “how-to” guide. I myself have benefited from certain blogs like “biz evde yokuz” (https://www.bizevdeyokuz.com , sweetsweden.com (http://www.sweetsweden.com/travel-tourism-holidays-in-stockholm-sweden/your-guide-to-public-transport-in-stockholm/#.WjqFrjN7HRg and dontstopliving.net (http://dontstopliving.net ; so here is my shout out to them.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.turkishlibrary.us/abd-de-etkin-bir-toplum-ve-guc-olmak-icin-tum-turk-amerikalilara-birlesmek-amacli-acik-bir-cagridir/

 

***DISCLAIMER: This Blog (Thisisfootballislife) and author (John Konuk Blasing) do not guarantee the accuracy of this information and do not bear responsibility for any mishaps occurring from adherence to any of the advice given. Travelers should always check the website of the Turkish consulate for the most up to date information (Information from the US Department of State can be found here: https://tr.usembassy.gov/message-u-s-citizens-turkish-visa-guidance-update-u-s-citizens-november-20-2017/ . Since this is not a travel blog, and rather a sociology blog, any information on this blog is designed to help—if at all possible—fellow world travelers in their adventures. ***

The Case for Americans Studying Abroad (With Help From George Herbert Mead)

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Author’s Note: Parts of this post were written as an assignment for a graduate seminar in Classical Sociological Theory.

Sociologist George Herbert Mead’s concept of the “self” makes for interesting reading, even if it is presented in a manner that seems to be trying its best to be inaccessible to the layman. His theories are very useful when applied to the current state of Americans and their relationship to America’s role in the world. I read an article in The Atlantic recently about how a possible Donald Trump presidency could “change the world”. Even though I have my own personal doubts as to whether or not any particular U.S. President can, indeed, unilaterally change the country—let alone the world—I read on. The article makes the claim that the current world system, based on the post WWII order created by the United States through institutions like Bretton Woods and characterized by neo-liberal economics, is unequivocally good for the world. That makes me think—what does “good” mean? And is “good” for the United States necessarily “good” for the rest of the world? The interviewee in the article states “the record is pretty clear over the last five or six years that if the U.S. pulls out, things will get worse domestically in other countries, and they’ll become more fearful and more protectionist and more nationalist.” But who is to say that things are not bad now domestically in other countries? I can think of many examples where this is the case, and that is where Mead’s ideas are very useful.

Foreign Affairs ran a story last spring about how study abroad programs can make the United States “safer and stronger” by “opening the American mind”. As someone who enjoys traveling I have to agree, and George Herbert Mead’s ideas offer some perspective on why study abroad could help America in the long run. Mead states that

every human individual must, to behave ethically, integrate himself with the pattern of organized social behavior which, as reflected or prehended in the the structure of his self, makes him a self-conscious personality […] the sense which the individual self has of his dependence upon the organized society or social community to which he belongs is the basis and origin, in short, of his sense of duty (and in general of his ethical consciousness); and ethical and unethical behavior can be defined essentially in social terms (Mead, Mind Self and Society section 41; 3).

Mead’s ideas certainly are applicable to the individual, and I believe they can be extrapolated out to the larger “nation” and/or “state”. Is it possible that, since the United States is both geographically and culturally isolated from the rest of the world, many citizens do not have a “sense of duty” as regards the rest of the world? If the self is defined in terms of the other—and through interaction with it—as Mead argues, then it is possible that many Americans truly do not have this sense of ethics when it comes to international politics.

Interestingly, this separation of the U.S. from the rest of the world—and the relative isolation of its population—is reflected by the “asocial or personal aspect” of Mead’s self. This “differentiates it from, or sets it in distinctive and unique opposition to, the other members of the social group to which it belongs; and this side of the self is characterized by the individual’s feeling of superiority toward the other members of that group” (Ibid.). If we were to substitute the words “social group” for “international community” and “the individual” for “the United States” we would have a very good example of the concept that views the United States as “a city on a hill”; we are detached from the poverty and violence that plague the rest of the world which often makes many of us in the United States feel this “sense of superiority”. I have met many people who are, unfortunately, afraid to travel abroad because they have heard “its so bad over there”. Usually, I counter by explaining that living in a country where citizens are allowed easy access to firearms would be considered to be fairly dangerous in any other context; the point is it’s all about perspective.

George Herbert Mead’s ideas are very useful in the current geopolitical age, where American hegemony is in question. The self can only define itself in relation to the other; “it is the social process itself that is responsible for the appearance of the self; it is not there as a self apart from this type of experience” (Calhoun et al., 351). Like the individual’s “self”, the “national” self is formed in the same way. Without interactions with those from other national backgrounds, a national consciousness cannot be developed independently. Most nationalist identities are defined vis-à-vis other, competing, national identities. In the United States, this has not been the case traditionally. Rather, for the most part, American “culture” is imposed from the top down through cultural processes like music, movies, and sports. This does not, however, allow for an independent realization of what is “American”, or what it means in relation to other nations internationally. In order to foster a better understanding of what it means to be “American”, in relation to the rest of the world, I believe that social interaction is imperative. If America wants to continue to be a hegemonic power, it cannot neglect educating its citizens about the rest of the world; by doing so a more introspective—and ultimately stronger—American identity could emerge.

After all, the condescending “city on a hill” image is not really reflective of American values (at least not in the way that I interpret them). A recent New Yorker piece states that “The United States’ claim to moral primacy in the world, the idea of American exceptionalism, rests upon the argument that this is a nation set apart”. Of course, this is a highly conceited perspective that I—even as a patriotic American—find to be extremely misguided. The fact that the New Yorker ties it into race is even more disgusting:

The old presumptions hold that some element of national humiliation and decline predisposes nations toward fascism, or at least the appeals of fascistic movements. But in the U.S. this movement sprang up on the contrails of the first black Presidency—a moment that was, perhaps naïvely at the time, thought to be one of national affirmation and triumph. The unsavory implication here, of course, is that, for the cornerstone elements of Trumpism, that triumph was a national humiliation, that the image of an African-American receiving the deference and regard that the Presidency entails invalidated these Americans’ understanding of what the U.S. is, or at least what it is supposed to be […] In the broader context, Trumpism represents the demise of American exceptionalism, or at least the refutation of the most cogent arguments for it ever having existed in the first place.

This is just one troubling article that has come out following Donald Trump’s election victory, since Mr. Obama’s years in power have seen unprecedented chaos in the Middle East driven by American policies and arguably represent abject failure. To even imply that criticism of these policies is somehow racist represents poor journalism—the journalist’s job is to hold politicians responsible for their policies and a President’s skin color does not exonerate them from failure in office. As I have stated earlier, Mr. Trump’s presidency might just be a recognition that “American exceptionalism” has not only failed the United States, but it has also failed the world. After all, uninterrupted war—which Mr. Obama has presided over eight years of—is not the healthiest of situations for any country. Even if Mr. Trump wants to alter U.S. policies, he will still have to deal with the American deep state and its “deep secrets”. This in and of itself should temper any unilateral behavior on his part. In fact, the fact that state media’s Washington Post is already giving airtime to Islamists suggests that the stage is being set to discredit Mr. Trump before he even takes office.

These troubling articles have coincided with some troubling conversations I have had with close friends. While I respect these friends more than I can explain here—and I know they will be better scholars than I will ever be—their marked lack of knowledge regarding America’s role in the world is upsetting and tells me that we, as a county, would do well to encourage more international study at the college level. One friend told me that Mr. Trump’s election meant that his non-white friends were being threatened. When I told him that this was unfortunate and that such abject racists were disgusting fringe elements, I was accused of being an apologist for white supremacists. Unfortunately, I ended up raising my voice (and I apologize for that already) when coup—killed many people in Turkey during an attempted coup; actions speak louder than words for me. For some Trump detractors, it seems that the killing of “brown people” abroad can be completely swept under the rug, and that—to someone with an international outlook like myself—is just unacceptable. But that is the kind of thought process that American exceptionalism breeds! A second friend pointed out that my Turkish friends would not be able to come to the United States due to Mr. Trump’s proposed “ban on Muslims”. When I told this individual that my friends would have no problem getting a visa because they are educated and have been to the United States before, my friend was incredulous. “They need visas for the United States? They can’t just walk in with their passports?” was the reply. It was a typically “American” response, and fitting seeing as how the American passport allows the holder to just “walk in” to most countries in the world—174 to be exact , and this is one major reason that those born in the United States should really be thankful for the privilege they have. Sadly, this individual didn’t know that the United States’ visa waiver program  is—to use parlance that is in vogue following Mr. Trump’s election—very pro-“white”. The only non-European countries that enjoy visa free travel to the United States are Australia (white), Brunei, Chile, Japan, New Zealand (white) South Korea, and Taiwan. As if to make the list look longer, the U.S. State Department includes miniscule states like Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Monaco—like a bad joke. The Visa Waiver Program added this provision in 2015:

Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

-Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).

-Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

Brunei is the only Muslim country on the list; it is not a Middle Eastern country. When I told my friend that many Americans did not know the value of their own passport and that most foreigners have to obtain visas, it was insinuated that I was an elitist of some sort. It was never my aim, rather I tried to point out that life in other countries is very different than in the U.S., and that extends to travel as well. This friend then cleared up the misunderstanding: they had understood that Mr. Trump would be instating visas for Muslims traveling to the United States. Again, this is an example of many Americans who only vote (or protest) based on media hyperbole rather than any real knowledge of the issues. It is a sad state of affairs, when voters in the world’s foremost “democracy” show such ignorance in the face of the issues but I suppose it is just the way it is for now. I can only hope that more universities bring Study Abroad programs into their curriculums, since the world is opening itself up. Even if Mr. Trump’s presidency means a drawdown in American power (or application of said power) abroad, it doesn’t mean that we can afford to have a population left ignorant of the privileges they have.

 

Author’s Note: Readers; if you have a chance, please travel. It is the single greatest investment you can make in yourself over the course of your lifetime!

24 Hours in Munich BONUS: Bayern Munich 2014-15 Home Shirt AND Germany World Cup 2014 Home Shirt

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I have one night in Munich to live it up. What happens in Munich stays in Munich, like Vegas. I’m riding an emotional high as I arrive to spend the night for my layover between my flight from Izmir and my flight on to Boston, sipping a Smirnoff Ice outside the Flughafen branch of the Bayern Munich shop. I soon realize that the only similarities between Munich and Vegas exist on the small “strip” leading from the Hauptbanhof to my hotel. Strillerstrasse is lined with Turkish kebab shops, casinos, strips clubs, and . . . women in Niqabs. A group meanders past a “Girls Girls Girls” advertisement, the neon from the sign reflecting off of their modest black garb. In Munich, in this spot where Vegas and Mecca have come together, it makes me feel like—just maybe—this world will come together too before it tears itself apart.

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I’m thinking it’s like a bad joke as I head up the dark stairs of the Hotel Daheim to my third floor room, the floorboards creaking with each step. As I throw my bags onto the surprisingly clean bed I reason that it’s just for one night, just a place to park my things, and myself, and I head out to explore (but not before closing the window, which opens to a fire escape accessible to all the other rooms).

With the mix of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish voices around me on the streets it feels like Istanbul…or so I lull myself into thinking, before seeing the Atlantic City club advertising Table Dancing specials for tonight. I laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and head towards Marianplatz and Munich’s picturesque center.

On the way I find a four-story sporting goods store where I partake in the solemn act that all tourists upon visiting Munich must experience: purchasing a Bayern Munich football shirt. Last year’s design has been discounted to 39 Euros from 80; an amazing deal considering that this year’s shirt isn’t much to write home about and costs 85 Euro—insult to injury! I also add Germany’s 2014 World Cup shirt to my collection for 25 Euros. When asked which match I want printed on the shirt I immediately give a knee-jerk reaction: The final against Argentina. Then I wake up. That’s cliché. “Do you have the USA match?” I ask, remembering the game I watched in St. Petersburg, Russia, when Joachim Low had his team take it easy on his countryman Jurgen Klinsmann. We are, after all, living in an international world and life is international.

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Shirts in hand I head to Marianplatz, which, under construction, has lost some of its grandeur. I continue on to the river instead, past an amazingly attractive Mini Cooper Polizei cruiser. And who says the Germans don’t get on with the British? Oh…wait…Mini is owned by BMW.

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Yes, I’m thinking the world could slowly be melding into one homogenous entity…before the strangely beautiful yet wholly mechanical “DEE-DOO-DEE-DOO-DEE-DOO” siren of an ambulance cuts through Munich’s serenity and I, watching the view over the Isar with the siren’s soundtrack in my mind, feel as if I’ve stepped into a Lego town. No, the world still has its differences. Here, drinking a mug of Munich’s famous beer in public and watching the sunbathers catch the last rays of a summer day, I could only be in “Europe”. The Europe of American backpacker’s dreams, the Europe of month long summer vacations designed to break the monotony of Suburban America.

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The next day, aboard my homeward-bound Lufthansa flight, I’m reading the papers and am again convinced that world is not completely homogenized by way of globalization…yet. According to my free copy of USA Today—two steps above or below a tabloid, depending on your point of view—9 CEOs in America are paid 800 times more than their workers. The dark side of the story is telling: “the average CEO is paid 216 times more than workers now,” compared to the “20 times more [they were paid] on average in the 1950s, according to a 2013 analysis by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.” Roger Cohen’s piece in the International New York Times (the successor to the famous International Herald Tribune that defined my childhood) “Incurable American Excess”, also rang true for me:

“To return from Europe to the United States, as I did recently, is to be struck by the crumbling infrastructure, the paucity of public spaces, the conspicuous waste (of food and energy above all), the dirtiness of cities and the acuteness of their poverty. It is also to be overwhelmed by the volume and vital clamor of American life, the challenging interaction, the bracing intermingling of Americans of all stripes, the strident individualism. Europe is more organized, America more alive. Europe purrs; even its hardship seems somehow muted. America revs. The differences can feel violent.”

“What We Learned from German Prisons” by Nicholas Turner and Jeremy Travis taught me that “While the United States currently incarcerates 2.2 million people, Germany — whose population is one-fourth the size of ours [the United States] — locks up only about 63,500, which translates to an incarceration rate that is one-tenth of ours [the United States].” The ability to be able to compare the United States and Germany first-hand allowed me to uniquely view the points that these journalists were making. But make no mistake; it is our differences—in the United States and in Europe—that make us stronger. Globalization need not make all cultures the same, indeed such rampant homogenization is not the solution for a more utopian society. After all, Germany is not the United States and bad people—unfortunately—do exist, no matter how much we attempt to homogenize and sanitize our views of society.

We learned this once again on August 22, 2015 when a group of three American soldiers vacationing in Europe foiled an attempted terrorist attack on a train in France. My hats off to the three brave young men who took matters into their own hands…and an extra shout out to Alek Skarlatos, who appears in an FC Bayern Munchen shirt—the same shirt I found on my one day jaunt around Munich. Perhaps the more things change the more they stay the same. All we can do, as individuals curious about the world around us, is get out and see the differences before they’re gone. After all, you never know what homogenizing force—constructive or destructive—will come along next.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/world/europe/americans-recount-gunmans-attack-on-train-to-france.html

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