The Nautical World...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Cycle

I'm writing this as I sit in Orlando, a few hours away from coming back to g-town, missing my old familiarities and friends. It's really hard moving to a new place where you know noone, but I guess it's the cycle of life. Everything operates in a fashion of growth then comfort, and then death and dormancy. Growth in spring, comfort in the production and bounty of summer, death in fall, and finally dormancy in winter all building up to do it all over again with the next spring.

What I find most interesting is since I am coming from Florida to Texas, is that I'm using Florida values to analyze my new Texas home. Let me explain. In Florida I worked at a night club. There was a certain dress code that was acceptable, certain drinks that were the norm, and certain songs that were considered appropriate. Now in Texas when I go to a night club, I use those factors familiar to me and decide whether I deem that club worthy or not worthy. Now is that fair to judge a Texas club by Florida standards? No, probably not. That is what we refer to as ethnocentrism, or believing that your own culture is superior to all other or judging other cultures by your owns cultures standards.

My previous example is to illustrate how, throughout history, we have made many mistakes when encountering other cultures by being ethnocentric. The Mayans were considered savages by the Spaniards because they used stone tools and wore loin cloths, even though they had an advanced understanding of astronomy and extensive written records. They used their values to judge the Mayans, deemed them savage, and then wiped them off the map. This scenario, with differing levels of severity, plays itself out over and over again from the past and into the present.

So how do we prevent ethnocentric bias? I really don't think we ever fully can. I mean in order for a culture to succeed, the people need to have a certain 'espirit de corps' so that they can propel themselves further, and that being said they will believe they do things the proper way. That is where the bias begins and thats how the everything starts.

It's kind of an unfortunate inevitbality, but as we become more educated about the other cultures and the social dynamics of people we can prevent it from happening on such a large scale. I also envision that at some point we will become so educated that we can all coexist together without those social injustices. But then one day, we will be visited by a race of space aliens and it will all disappear. We will hate their food, their clothes, and their ways. We will judge everything about those slimy bug people by using our values and standards. It will be a death of our tolerance, followed by a period of dislike and then hopefully a rebirth of acceptance, and a period of comfort, all too be repeated again. So we are right back to our basic cycle of life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mi Vida Colegio

So for the next several required blogs I have to write, they are just supposed to be editorials about various things of inspiration. Expect a lot to be about food. This week is my interpretation of college life and Galveston.

This subject was probably built more for the freshman in mind, but I'm sure my insights are just as legit but with just a very different perspective.

I spent four years active duty in th Marines, went to Iraq, traveled around, lived in Florida and got my associates degree and now I'm here, 25 year old veteran/transfer student--not your traditional case. So far I'm having a blast, I'm involved with way too many credit hours, extra credit assignments, clubs, and sports teams. I barely have a second to take a breath or stretch my legs but I kinda like it that way.

Coming here I knew the school was gonna be small, that was my preference. I enjoy small class interaction and being able to talk one on one with teachers. This school and the island are tiny, no matter where I go out to, I see people from class all around town. Definately a little bit of culture shock. It kind of allows me to take on a little more because I know many people in every class and even multiple classes, so it's kinda like networking to make sure you never miss a test or assignment. I just talk to other people I see from my classes throughout the day and kinda double check to make sure I'm caught up or prepared.

Everybody here is really nice so far, and I think that is because of a combination of reasons. First, we are Aggies. I mean I knew there was a lot of pride in being an Aggie, but people here really take it to heart, which is good, I love seeing people taking pride in what they are doing. Secondly, it is a small island. In fact an island off an Island. I am on Pelican Island and have to go to Galveston Island to get to the mainland, so it's like a small isolated microcosm. Thirdly, everyone here has a maritime degree, whether it be biology, admin, tranportation or studies, this place could definately fit the defination of subculture. All these factors together make for a student body that is pretty cool all around.

I went through several phases when I got here. As I looked around at the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike, I was depressed. I thought this place looked beat and I was kicking myself for turning down Univ Miami. But as I looked on I found a really cool community. You can surf, longboard, get great Mexican food, and so much else. Sometimes you just have to look a little deeper than the surface to see if you like or dislike something. I did that and I couldn't be happier. I'm having a great time living the Aloha lifestyle.

Islander by Choice.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do indigenous people have the right to control their own history and what is written about them?

Do people have a right to control their history and what is written about them? I think not. I also don't think that the larger occupying or migrating group does either. It should all be written down and recorded by a third party that has no other interest other than to record history. The reason I believe this is because bias plays a huge factor when a people write their own history.

Take North Korea for example. Their history books portray a completely different story of their successes and their struggles. Now I know they aren't a small group indigenous people, but they are just a representation on the macro level and can be applied to much smaller groups as well. All you have to do is take a history book from England and one from the United States and compare the story of the American Revolution. You will find that the stories differ very greatly, but if you picked up a book from Thailand (The only Southeast Asian country to never be colonized) that is written about the American revolution, you might find an unbiased report.

Now when a scholar enters into a situation where he is recording the intricacies of a culture, he has the duty to not publish erroneous facts but on the same hand he must not be afraid to publish something that the people might dislike or find untrue. All knowledge about a culture is fair game, we must learn everything from a culture, big or small. There is one little exception, and that is if a certain piece of knowledge is potentially a big money maker.

One example of this code of ethics is displayed by Ethnobotanists. They study the relationship between man and plants. One of the largest employers of Ethnobotanists are pharmaceutical companies. They send them into remote villages in order to speak with tradtional doctors in orders to find plants that can contribute to modern medicine. In fact, when you go in the drugstore 1 out of every 4 drugs in there were derived from plants, and 89% of those were found by talking to a local folk doctor (Balick, 2005, p. 25). Is it fair to go into a village and learn of a drug that will make billions of dollars in the U.S. and then compensate them with nothing? Absolutely not. Is it fair to learn of this drug that could save millions of lives and not produce it because it is the knowledge of this indigenous tribe and they have sole rights to it? The answer to that is no as well. So a happy balance must be found where everyone can benefit from the knowledge and the original keepers of this knowledge are compensated. This example was not mentioned just for the topic of medicine, but for any type of knowledge or practices that a people utilize that can be applied to another culture.

It is the duty of the scholar to learn report everything he can about a culture, but when the knowledge will result in a large financial gain for another party, the curators of that said knowledge, technique, or invention, should be compensated appropriately for protecting and developing it through time. By using this rationale, it in now way interferes with free inquiry or academic freedom.

Balick, Michael J., and Paul Alan Cox. Plants, People and Culture. 2005.

Monday, September 7, 2009

About me...

My name is Brett. I hail from Arlington, Texas but have been living in Florida for the last three years. I have recently moved to Galveston, Texas where I am in the Texas A&M at Galveston Maritime Studies Program.

Shortly after graduating high school I took a leap and joined the United Marine Corps. My occupation was infantryman but I was trained in a variety of skills from explosives, to radios, to Arabic. I was stationed in about 6 different states and over my five years of service visited many foreign ports. In 2005 I deployed as part of the 22nd MEU (SOC) to the coast of Somalia and eventually Iraq. In Iraq my unit was the spearhead of such operations as Smokewagon and Koa Canyon. I was honorably discharged in August 2006 and then served a year of reserves in the Marines and eventually switched branches to the Army National Guard where I continue to serve today.

Now, I live the life of a poor college student living off "pickles and pop-tarts" but I am always thankful for my past experiences. I enjoy traveling and have been to Europe and more recently Colombia (traveling is an obsession that once you have experienced, never ceases to torment your imagination). Many insights about life can be gained just by visiting another country and walking in the shoes of another culture for a bit. So besides school and homework occupying almost all my hobby time I enjoy cooking, reading, working out, and learning all types of new skill sets whether practical or not. One thing that I have learned in college is that when you are unsure of how to start or finish a paper, end it with a quote. So here's mine...

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats."-H.L. Mencken