Monday, December 27, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
First with climbing Slieve Donard and just this past week with climbing Slieve League in the
Trying to comprehend my experiences in
To help myself organize this blogpost – which also helps you the reader to process it along with me – I will organize it around three topics/ questions: 1) The Troubles – what are the aftershocks still present in Northern Ireland? 2) What does peace and reconciliation really mean? 3) What is the future for
Please keep in mind that these reflections are simply those of a volunteer who has been here 2 months. (I will likely revisit the topics several times throughout the year to see how my opinions change.) During those intense two months though, I diligently kept my eyes and ears open throughout my daily life. No outside research was done; it was just learning through being in this society.
The Troubles: A Vocal Minority and a Silenced Majority
This pattern of the troubles continues through this day. After 30-odd years of open hostilities, the various political parties (Sinn Fein, Progressive Unionist Party particularly) have committed to promoting peace. So at a macro-level, the peace process is at the best stage in many years. Yet while the official position is for peace, certain members do not wish it to be so. While most of the society yearns for peace, the vocal minority is not ready to let peace happen and are making their voices heard through continued bomb threats and rioting . The basic political loyalties of
In addition to the political sides of the conflict, the police force was and is often viewed by the multiple sides as the enemy – whether as an occupying force or simply distrusted in their allegiances. (The NI police do not have so great a track record of human rights towards citizens.) While they have been renamed the PSNI (Police Services of
Of all the Northern Irish people that I have interacted with, they have all expressed the desire to see peace in the nation. (But just what that peace might look like is to be decided - see the future of N.I.) I have heard people argue that today’s troubles are caused by ignorant youth who just didn’t know better. But why don’t they know better?
Education in Northern is segregated. A recent NI public official stated as such and has received an extreme amount of flack for it. But he was correct. Only a small minority of schools are actually cross-community. (Less than 10%.) Many children are growing up in schools and neighborhoods with people of the same identity as themselves. And these people of different identities are simply enemies without a face, and these assumptions are reinforced by their parents who have grown up only knowing the same thing.
And many people I have talked to – who are educated, wonderful people – harbor these same prejudices against other N.I. residents who are different than them, whether they like to admit it or not. These prejudices have been forced upon them by the history of this society. The majority of Northern Ireland Protestants would shudder if you told them that they were “Irish.” They would say first, and foremost, that they are British. (To put it in different terms: in 1783, say that the loyalist state of
So how does one even begin to reconcile the various sides of this conflict? There have been countless bomb threats and bombs planted throughout
From my observations and hearing various opinions on it, it seems that
The 30 years of the Troubles are over, but
We are standing at the top of the mountain. There has been a lot that has been learned and struggled with, and the view that presents itself is rather hazy. It makes sense, but at the same time, many questions are clouding up our vision. But that is part of the experience of
Until then, I pray for peace and reconciliation, not only for the people of
“I am who I am because of who we all are.”
In peace and grace.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
We have our first retreat coming up in a week and a half; the Norn YAV contingent will be heading to Donegal to spend some time decompressing as a group away from Belfast. (I am very excited!)
Monday, October 11, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Any economic policy can be brilliant in theory, but in practical application to modern society, human shortcomings make any political theory imperfect.
The Welfare State is brilliant in theory. It establishes a great safety net for the citizens of a nation. Offering up her first hand experience, JK Rowling discusses the
During my time in
Another controversial part of the Welfare State is socialized medicine. In speaking with many people though, public health care is beautiful. Doug and Elaine testified that when one of their children was born with many health problems and needed several expensive surgeries, they never once had to stop to consider how they would pay for it. They didn’t have to fight with insurance companies; they didn’t have to hassle with mountains of paperwork. They just signed the consent for the procedure, and the surgery was done.
I have grown up with socialized medicine, courtesy of being a military dependent. There are drawbacks – I have probably never seen the same doctor more than once, sometimes your treatment is not the best. But it was awesome to be able to receive treatments and medication for free or at very low out of pocket expense. Thank you to all of the American tax payers for helping to cover treatment for all of my childhood ailments.
The general drawbacks of the welfare state are more than evident: the rampant possibility for abuse or misuse of the system, high taxes (sidenote: having sales tax already included in the price of an item makes shopping soooo much easier), and the bureaucracy it creates can often be a hassle.
But, in the
For those who shudder at the thought of big government, let me say: Ronald Reagans of
But humanity doesn't work that way.
Like in the Welfare State, the problems with Trickle-Down theory in practice is humanity’s shortcomings. When times are tough, we strive to look out for ourselves. So as companies receive these huge sums of money, the people in charge of the money – those at the top of the food chain – are going to look after themselves while looking after the company. So the countless stories of executives who were let go during the 2007/2008/and ongoing crisis, are understandably often released with generous severance packages. But what about the employees down the foodchain? The working masses are given the pink slip and kindly escorted out of the building. Maybe they receive some severance bonus to carry them through the next few months, but what next?
The problem with Trickle-Down is it’s focus on the macro side of economics without consideration for the people. I would take the failings of the Welfare state: back in the 1950s when the welfare system was fully implemented in
And finally, Lady Voldemort.
My history advisor/ professor who I took two classes with came of age in
[Kudos to Thatcher for being the first female MP, but negative points for being so blind to the needs of the people.]
Lady Voldemort made many cuts during her time in power. However, she could not dissolve the NHS. Her intended privatization plans were never implanted due to public outcry against it.
What it comes down to is the question: is the government supposed to help people? I would say yes. While it is nice to think that private organizations, churches, and local communities would be able to take care of themselves, today’s modern world is not conducive to that. (Few people remain in the communities where they grew up; American suburbs are built so we don't have to interact with our neighbors.) We need government policies to establish a basic standard of living that ensures everyone has access to the basics – food, shelter, and health care. While concerns about Big Brother are sometimes valid, Obama is not Hitler. Do not even compare the two. Obama does not proclaim a master race and seek to take over the world. Bush proclaimed a master religion and tried to do that in the
In viewing the
The UN Millenium Development Goals were supposed to have been reached by 2015. See here: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/. Or even better, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Development_Goals
It’s time for governments to stop spending money on war, but rather peace. To build a future rather than destroy what exists. Spend money on your citizens, bettering their lives, and on citizens of other nations, to provide the basic needs of living rather than guns or bombs. We are all God’s children.
Even as we stand reviewing our shortcomings, God gives us hope.
In grace and peace.