Red Tape Connects You, Me, and Everybody

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If there is one thing I have learned from travelling the world, it is that somethings are the same in every country. A McDonald’s burger always tastes the same amount of greasy and wonderful. People universally dislike the average American tourist. Lastly, bureaucracy is a impossibly difficult no matter where you go. I speak from experience, I have dealt with governments agencies on 3 different continents.

In the UK, it is challenging because they want multiple documents for one thing. Proof of address for example, they want you to have at least 4 items, from different sources! This is especially challenging when most bills and mail are sent via email rather than physical post.
In China, they expect you to wait in massive, huge lines (queue’s). Upon reaching the front, the believe you should already know the paperwork, documents and information you need. There is no room or error or leeway. Everything must be perfectly in order to get what you need.
I think America is one of the worst locations of this. Trying to simply prove your identity is a chore. They want your birth certificate, passport, drivers license, social security care, and your left arm. This is just to prove you exist, to prove your address/residency is a whole other matter. Today, I attempted to get a driver’s license. As I have residency in two countries, having snail mail isn’t easy. But, I managed to round up several pieces of mail with my name and address, along with a title to the house I was in that also had my name on it. Yet, none of this was enough! Proving that I had a partial ownership of a piece of property in the state wasn’t enough evidence that I was a resident. My mother had to sign a legal form stating that I was a resident at the address. Then, they attempted to say our physical address wasn’t correct. Oh, the drama!! Then they charged me $70.
I shouldn’t complain. I recently discovered that in Turkey to obtain a driver’s license, you need to have a health examination to assure the government you have no health conditions that might impede your driving abilities.
I take comfort in the fact that bureaucracies are the same world wide. We might all live in different lands, but we can all unite in our loathing of the red tape.

How Buying Local Could Be Changing Your Political Views Without You Realizing It

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Around 2010, a “buy local” trend started to emerge in America. Suddenly, it was considered wasteful and un-environmentally friendly to buy products that were grown or made abroad. Initially, this trend has solid logic. Local businesses like farmers directly contribute to their local economy. By buying your vegetables solely from them, you are ensuring that your money is going directly back into your own nearby economy. This ensures that your area continues to thrive and doesn’t face unemployment or poor living conditions.

But, eight years later, and the “buy local” trend has really taken hold. Some people will only buy products that are made within 100 miles of where they live. And they shun products that were made abroad. I’m aware that this might seem like a stretch, but has the encouraged people to lean more towards nationalism and less towards being international participants?
If you aren’t buying goods from other countries, then you aren’t supporting international trade agreements that the US has made. Those agreements provide millions of jobs world wide. By not purchasing a toy made in China, you could be putting someone out of work. Furthermore, by focusing only on your local economy/area, you are forgetting that there other people and places out there. These people/places deserve income and money just as much as you do. The “buy local” trend is pushing the idea that American products are more important and worth more money than international sourced ones (because “buy local” always costs more money). A belief that American goods are better pushes people to believe more in that American’s are better.
Nationalism is at an all time high under the regime of Trump. He holds a lot of responsibility for this with this “Make America Great Again” and “America First” propaganda. But, he is feeding on sentiments that people were already growing. I think that “buy local” has caused people to put too high a value on what American’s do. And it causes them to ignore the importance of being part of a global economy. America could never survive if everyone lived the “buy local” lifestyle. As much as Trump hates to admit it, America needs other nations to feed it’s people. The US simply can’t produce enough foods and goods for its citizens on its own. “Buy local” is a good, but only in small doses. Taking it too far can lead to extremism that I believe harms foreign policy.

Is Your British Neighbourhood About To Change in a BIG Way?

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Gentrification is the process that occurs when a geographical area goes from being predominantly lower class or impoverished to being an area dominated by upper middle class individuals, stores, and businesses. A common sign of gentrification is the introduction of Starbucks, Co-op’s and boutique cafes to an area. This is then followed by increased living costs and housing costs, which pushes the poor out and lets the rich in.

I recently had an experience with the NHS (National Health Service in the UK) that has made me question whether the UK is attempting a large scale gentrification process. I needed a prescription filled, which the pharmacy was unable to get renewed by my doctor. After a week of confusion, I spent an entire morning driving all over town, calling five different doctors in an attempt to find someone who would print me off a new prescription. I was refused by every single person, despite the fact that medication is something that I depend on to stay alive. Eventually, after crying in the middle of a crowded waiting room, I was given my medication.
Initially, I just attributed this clerical paperwork error to the under-funding that the NHS is currently experiencing. However, upon further thought, I realised that this under-funding to health services only effects one specific group of people, the lower class. It’s lower class individuals who go to the emergency room, and are being left untreated by the lack of staff. Frequently lower class individuals avoid going to the doctor due to work or other conflicts, so they end up in hospital because their illnesses have worsened to the point of an emergency. It is the poor who are stuck in overcrowded waiting rooms, and who are dying in the hallways of hospitals. The middle class and rich are able to either afford private health care, or live a higher quality of life that prevents illness or allows it to be immediately treated.
So, the government is under-funding the NHS, and it mainly effects the lower class of the UK. This doesn’t equate to a removal of these people, does it? No, but then I read that the government is also making huge changed to their car MOT process (this is when a car is tested to be road safe and environmentally legal). The changes will mean that diesel vehicles and older cars are almost guaranteed to fail their MOT’s (and they can no longer be driven). Who drives old cars? The lower class citizens who can’t afford to constantly upgrade or get new leases. When their cars fail, they won’t be able to work, or function.
If you combine the new MOT regulations and the under-funding in health care with the ramifications of Brexit, all signs point to the fact that the UK government is attempted to gentrify the entire nation. They are removing any working class immigrants, and refusing entry to new ones. They are causing the poor to suffer medically. Brexit is only causing housing to increase in price and get worse in upkeep. I used to believe that the UK had great social services, but I can now see that people who take advantages of these services are constantly discriminated against. More so than in the US and many other countries. The UK is trying to cut their social services as well, which only further supports my belief that the UK wants to be a country of only the well off.
Unfortunately, this aspiration is costing the lives of the lower class. They are being forced to live on the streets, die without medical care, or suffer in poverty. The UK is supposed to be a first world country, but I see that it is going down a path that makes the first world benefits only accessible to some. All are not equal in Britain.

The Forgotten Victims of Terrorism

“UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond echoed her call, saying Muslim countries had “suffered the greatest burden of terrorism”
-BBC “EU urges broad alliance on terrorism, at Brussels talks”
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This quote struck a chord in me.  Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Westerners have tended to focus more heavily on terrorist attacks by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other militant groups committed in Western countries. In the aftermath of the Boston bombers, the American media could talk of nothing else. A similar situation is occurring in France.

Now, while these atrocities are horrific, and deserve widespread discussion/attention and to have efforts made to prevent them, I think that the world tends to largely ignore the terrorist attacks that are occurring in the Middle East. Arguably, the countries that are harmed the most, and victim to the most violent attacks are Middle Eastern states. However, media coverage on these attacks is negligible. A news story will pop up in the headlines of BBC, The New York Times, or any other major media source, but there is very little follow up or discussion afterwards or it is relegated to the little viewed sections.
 It is fair to say that these news sources don’t focus on these attacks because they report on American or UK news, but is it fair to solely focus on the terrorism that occurs on Western borders? When discussing ISIS in Afghanistan, it is usually in reference to the military attacks, how it threatens U.S security, and the involvement of the US army. It is not discussed from the perspective of ISIS continually inflicting terrorist attacks on the citizens of Afghanistan.
A prime example of the focus media sources take on Western based attacks is the school shooting that recently took place in Pakistan. 141 people were killed by the Taliban, most of them children. It was a top story for a day or two, then it was forgotten. In France, 12 were killed, and the attackers were found within days. In Pakistan, the terrorists weren’t found, and 120 more people died in this attack than in France.
I don’t intend to imply that the deaths in France mean less than those in Pakistan, or that those in Pakistan are worth more because more died. I just find it curious that in a world that is increasingly more global, and interdependent, media and politicians for the most part still focus on crimes committed in Western countries and push other crimes to the side. While Western politicians don’t have control of what occurs in Pakistan or Afghanistan, they most definitely could be more pragmatic and make more of an effort to support the victims of these attacks. If none of this can be done, then media sources could give more press to the attacks, so the suffering of the victims is known, and the hardships are acknowledged. No one wants to feel that their sorrow is silent, that the world doesn’t care about the pain that has been inflicted on them. I respect the UK foreign secretary for acknowledging that Western countries aren’t the only targets of terrorist attacks and I hope more acknowledgement is given to this in the future.

Do You Belong to a Country or the World?

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In the analysis of a BBC article discussing the death of a Japanese man at the hand of ISIS, it was mentioned that the man’s father apologized for the difficulty his son’s death has caused for Japan. And some of the general population is annoyed (while also sad) over the death. Initially, this might seem horrible. But digging into the reason why, shows that the population is not being crass or unfeeling. If this Japanese man had not put himself in a situation where he was at risk of being captured by ISIS, then Japan would have been able to avoid becoming embroiled in the growing conflict. The annoyance the population feels is somewhat justified in that sense. One death, could cause the country a lot of political turmoil. On the other hand, it would be unacceptable according to the people for the government to completely ignore this death and sweep it under the rug. If this man had not died, Japan would be able to avoid any stringent line about ISIS. But now Japan is involved.

What I find most interesting is that this is true for most countries. As long as a conflict has not touched their nation firsthand, they are able to avoid becoming involved. America was not overtly concerned about terrorism or Bin Laden or Al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 bombing. But, as soon as a terrorist group caused American deaths, it was impossible to ignore the presence of this enemy.
Ignoring Bin Laden would have caused uproar among American citizens and it would have made America appear weak internationally. It would have opened the doors for other terrorist groups to attack, it would have made it seem possible that America could not defend itself. So, the U.S started the war on terror. France was also comfortable in taking a back seat in the fight against ISIS until the recent rash of killings and terrorism that took place. Now, it has been forced to be more public with its condemnation and efforts to stop terrorism.
When a country is not directly touched by a conflict, it is easier to ignore. Take the Rwanda genocide or the war in Ukraine. These conflicts were very locally centred and do/did not harm others outside of the country, so nations and international institutions have not gotten heavily involved. Under Stalin’s tyrannical rule in Russia, the U.S and other international watchdogs stood back and allowed massive amounts of death to occur, because it was only Russian death.
States are able to bypass the guilt from witnessing large amounts of pain if it doesn’t directly affect their people, international status or country. I don’t mean to say this is wrong or right. It is a very realist centred approach to deal with international situations. Realism is where countries are driven purely by selfish reasons. If getting involved in a situation does not benefit them, then a state won’t risk the loss of life or the high economical costs. But, it also means that large atrocities are committed worldwide with no one stopping them. Should we have countries like the U.S to act as watch dogs? But if they are watchdogs, should they not be bound to intervene in every genocidal or horrific violent situation? This leaves a lot of questions to be answered.