The Lewis & Clark Expedition is one of the pivotal moments in the history of the United States. Two centuries ago, under the orders of the then President Thomas Jefferson, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark set about with a team of thirty three personnel to explore, observe and chart the vast expanses of territory to the west of the continent. Titled very aptly the Corps of Discovery, the team started their journey in Wood River, Illinois in 1804 and reached the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the continent a year later. The entire route taken by the team measured 3700 miles. It covered several states, including “Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington”. (“Lewis and Clark Bicentennial,” 2001) The expedition marked a key event in the course of the nation’s history. This is acknowledged during the bicentennial celebrations of the event that transpired in 2005. On the . . . Read More
Document analysis: Extract from Bernt Engelmann’s autobiographical memoir, In Hitler’s Germany, (1986), pp.1-4
While political violence during the reign of the Third Reich is copiously documented, the intimidation and oppression in the lead up to Nazi capture of power is less well known. Bernt Engelmann’s autobiographical memoir In Hitler’s Germany, written half a century after the event in 1986, serves to fill this lacuna. In the extract in question Engelmann recounts a dramatic event he experienced when he was a school kid growing up in late Weimar Germany. Even eight months before Germany came under the grip of the Third Reich there were troubling early signs of what is in store. Engelmann’s Jewish French teacher (Dr.Levy) was vilified and victimized right before his eyes and for not fault of his. Merely by the fact of his religious faith and by his legitimate act of removing a Swastika flag from the school mast, Dr. . . . Read More
The prevailing healthcare system in the United States has drawn many criticisms – from healthcare professionals and citizens alike. The American system fares badly compared to nationalized public health systems of Western Europe. Even in terms of overall costs, the American model is more expensive, which is significantly inflated by bureaucracy costs. All comparative evidence points in one direction – that the country would benefit through an overhaul of the healthcare system. Single payer and universal insurance coverage are the cornerstones of the optimal system. Posing hurdles for this noble objective are vested private interests in the form of private insurance companies, ideologically entrenched politicians and to a lesser extent, healthcare providers.
Why is the article relevant to our course discussions on the U.S. Healthcare system?
The issue of healthcare is a pressing social problem in the United States. . . . Read More
Henry Louis Gates Jr. makes a cogent case for pluralism in the American cultural context. In the American academia of today the formation of curricula is largely dependent on the ethnic composition of the enrolled students. This implies that courses that come under the purview of liberal arts are seldom offered in colleges with a high ethnic/racial diversity. Gates Jr. sees this practice as discriminatory and divisive. He alerts us to how “political representation has been confused with ‘representation’ of various ethnic identities in the curriculum”. (214) Hereby, instead of real diversity in the classroom, what we have is notional diversity of perspectives in the course content. The effect of this trend is one of promoting a concocted common American identity where none such exists. Political conservatives have tried to justify this practice by citing fears of ‘tribalism’ and ‘fragmentation’ in society. But considering that plurality is at the very core of American . . . Read More
It is fair to state that the status of Asian American women before 1950s was not any better than that suffered by minorities from any racial-ethnic group during this period. This is amply attested by first-hand accounts of discrimination and maltreatment by early immigrants. We also have copious legal indictments handing penalties, jail sentences and deportations to early wave of Asian immigrants to the ‘land of the free’. Considering that it was beginning from the second half of the 19th century that steady streams of Asian immigration poured into America, it is apt to claim that their struggle spanned a century, ending with the Civil Rights movement of 1960s. Prior to this the community endured a century of hardships that mitigated their integration into mainstream American socio-culture. If racial prejudice was a sizeable challenge on its own, the issues were compounded for womenfolk. The rest of this essay is an overview of the Asian American experience . . . Read More
It is fair to claim that the first half of the twentieth century was the most turbulent in modern Chinese history. The revolutionary fervor, mixed with the wave of Western cultural influences, created a national identity crisis in these decades. The two characters in question transcend their fiction and represent the society at large during this period. They stand for two contrasted Chinese identities that speak of the good and evil in the Chinese character. This essay will elaborate on how Ah Q and Hsiang Tzu symbolically represent a nation, culture and society that was in transition.
Ah Q is a powerful yet critical portrayal of young Chinese men at the turn of the twentieth century. As the novelist Lu Xun introduces him, he is full of folly and vainglory. He is also shown to possess the vice of sloth and lack meaningful goals in life. Lu Xun’s main concern with the novella is not the moral dimension but the social and political ones. In this view, Ah Q is the . . . Read More
The short story is based on the author’s first hand experiences as an imperial police officer in Burma. It has all of the trademark Orwellian touches, including the futility and the dehumanization that the imperial project entails. Moreover the story is a strong indictment of the practice of capital punishment. There are numerous clues that this is the author’s moral stance. First the dog that strays into the gallows obviously does not find the prisoner guilty. It is a mark of its love for its master and loyalty the dog jumps on the prisoner and licks his face. Here Orwell is hinting that guilt is a morally relative judgment.
Another point Orwell implies is the shared common humanity between the unfortunate prisoner and his persecutors. This insight comes through at the moment when the prisoner steps aside from a puddle of water. It was a powerful moment that revealed his capacity for rational thinking and action. The other instances of . . . Read More
(talk accessed via: http://www.theory-talks.org/2008/07/theory-talk-12.html)
Political Scientist Robert Jervis offers interesting perspectives in the area of International Relations. In particular he talks about the nature of American dominance, the potential threats to its superpower status, the success and failure of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, etc. Professor Jervis presents his views from a Realist point of view – a framework that takes a pragmatic account of geo-political situations as against idealistic or fundamentalist ones. This is evident in Realists’ (including Jervis) open opposition to the war in Iraq. Even on the question of a possible intervention in Iran Jervis advices caution and suggests that Iran’s declaration of being a nuclear-enabled state could be no more than a strategic bluff. Jervis sees both advantages and disadvantages in European economic integration. On the positive side, he believes that a consolidated Europe would . . . Read More
What did I learn from the novel and the PBS videos?
Both the novel and the documentary film has been full of relevant information for me. I learnt different things from the two different media. The novel The Eleventh Hour is a unique mélange of fact and fiction. That it presents details pertaining to the American healthcare system in the form of an engaging story made it easy for me to focus and keep track. As the drama of the story unfolded I was able to pick up facts about the healthcare system that were erstwhile unknown to me.
Sick Around the World, on the other hand, offered me a comparative perspective on several leading healthcare systems. I was astounded that countries which are less economically powerful than the United States offer a better healthcare deal to their citizens. The five countries studied by the PBS documentary crew – Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan and Switzerland – all have cheaper average per . . . Read More
Various leading political scientists of the twentieth century have understood, defined and interpreted ‘democracy’ in a variety of ways. Robert Dahl, arguably the most influential American political scientist of the 20th century reckons that democracy is a utopian concept that is not found anywhere in contemporary geo-politics. In its stead, leading industrial societies of the world, including the United States have a ‘Plutocracy’, where power is shared and wielded by various major public institutions. Plutocracy is less idealistic than democracy in that it is not the people’s voice but the will of the institutions that holds sway over policy. But plutocracy is still better than a totalitarian society where power is concentrated in the hands of small ruling elite with no accountability. Dahl classifies political systems under a spectrum of five gradations. At the top of the scale are the fairest systems that employ ‘rational persuasion’ for gathering . . . Read More