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By Anna

On these upcoming Ides of March (Idus Martias) Julius Caesar will not resurrect from his 2,054 year slumber beneath the earth, but the day should, nevertheless, be held in high regard as our ancestors held it.

Few (if any) military parades will take place, and praises for the god Mars has a slim chance of happening, but I think Hipsters and punks alike are bringing back the recognition, if not fear, for the Ides of March. Though I’m uncertain as to whether I fall in either of those groups, I would like to reflect upon the foreboding words with a foreboding of my own.

Beware the Ides of March for a time will come when we will no longer be, and for some that time comes sooner than for others in part because of continual humanitarian crises. According to Crisisgroup.org, an organization committed to responding to international crises, Islamism, energy issues, and HIV/AIDS are some of the top reasons why conflict ensues in various countries throughout the world.

Conflict arises from fear of citizen deaths, fear of disease, and fear of an unstable climate. Most of the world continues to play by the bigger is better mentality, which is directly causing these issues and is in opposition to fundamental moral truths many of these countries believe. For example, bigger cars emit more CO2 and cause climate instability; a greater number of deaths on earth leads to a great number of awards in the after life; and a greater number of women leads to a greater number of people contracting diseases.

Crisis Group recognizes that personal freedoms (particularly for women) leads to less conflict overall. As we globalize without acknowledgment of our actions, conflict continues to rise and the Ides of March continue to haunt. Let us not be vain as Caesar was, but let us humbly lead into a new era in which Crisis Group can recognize more improved conflict states than ongoing conflict states.

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By Anna

When humanity’s relationship with the environment is compared to Bernie Madoff and his clients’ relationship, the argument of human superiority doesn’t work anymore.

In the Jan/Feb issue of The Utne Reader David P. Barash said we are all Bernie Madoff’s when it comes to the environment because our economies make us so. The article was originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and compares Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to “modern civilization’s exploitation of the environment.”

Ponzi Scheme a.k.a. Pyramid Scheme:

Barash’s environment Ponzi Scheme:

“Nearly all economic models of ‘development’ rely upon an unsustainable assumption: that the discovery of new resources … will always come to our rescue, enabling us to postpone, indefinitely, any final audit … Under capitalism, it has been said, man exploits man, whereas under communism, it’s the reverse. Either way, the environment is the loser.”
He attacks Capitalism and Communism, but shies away from attacking socialism. Though we will never convince our parents of the need for a socialist economy, the independent experts agree it would help the situation we find ourselves in, that of recession and joblessness and environmental damage. As Barash said, “A strong economy is possible when the environment on which it depends is healthy and strong.”

No longer can we excuse our Ponzi Scheme with the environment because, like Madoff, there are bigger forces that will imprison us eventually.

By Anna

Haiti has long been called “The Republic of NGOs” because more than 3,000 Non-Governmental Organizations operate in Haiti, according to the United States Institute of Peace.

Before (and after) the January earthquake, people criticized the number of NGOs and UN workers involved in Haiti’s well being. One blogger called them the “Neo-imperialists,” and another “invaders.” Three thousand organizations in one country is a lot too, but my critique is not in the number it’s in the activity of the number.

How many of these NGOs are infusing local growth and stability and how many are going so far as to capitalize on Haiti’s poverty? If NGOs are not involved in training local leaders, to provide jobs and economic growth they should rethink their mission.

A friend of mine this week asked me if I thought all these NGOs were exploiting Haitians because of all the excessive advertising for donating to Haiti now. I think it is a possibility, which is why it’s important to know an organization well before donating. Yes, Haiti needs our help and if an NGO has long been established in Haiti (which 3,000 have) they probably do need money right now. But texting 90999 to The Red Cross isn’t making much of a dent in Haiti’s recovery.

The solution for Haiti isn’t more money and more NGOs, the solution should be within Haiti. The United States Government and its NGOs haven’t found a solution for poverty here, so how will they manage to solve Haiti’s problems?

Reporter Marcela Valente said a solution could be found in mutual cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If the United States urged more government solutions in Haiti, their long-term future could be more stable, but resources are limited on the island and water is now their greatest need.

The point is Haiti has always needed economic help and photos of post-earthquake kids and bodies is meant to make people aware of the situation they are now in, not to make anyone feel guilty for not texting or not going down to move concrete. So be wary of the point of NGO photos and calls for donations.

By Anna

The following essay is one I wrote for New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s contest: “Win a trip with Nick!”

I do not know if I won, but will let you know if I do. Winning is a long shot, but writing this was an exercise in thought extraction nonetheless.

The 16th century Hungarian myth, the Battle of Bull’s Blood, is about the near destruction of the Hungarians at the sword of the Turks. However, the Hungarian men slathered a dark red wine in their beards and on their clothes to scare the Turks into thinking they were savage because they drank bull’s blood.

The man who told me this story on the bank of the Danube in Budapest, said it was the Hungarian women who conceived of the feral idea. Since I heard that story last year, I knew it would be the women of this world that would reconcile this age of crisis through dignity, intelligence and grace.

I want to be a part of Nicholas Kristof’s trip to Africa because I am a journalism student at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., a cross-cultural studies minor, and a fellow adventurer who believes women do hold up half the sky. I have traveled abroad a half dozen times recording through photographs and a pen what I saw and what I did not see. It is important to me that people’s stories are heard, and I know it is in my power to tell these stories.

After returning from Cambodia three years ago, I started a blog with friends concerning everything relevant in the world. My weekly column focuses on humanity and inhumanity. I wrote about what disturbed me in the streets of Phnom Penh but quickly moved to what excited me about places like New Life Center in the heart of the city where people meet to eat and commune together.

I want to travel with Nicholas so people will see continents as countries, countries as cities, cities as neighborhoods, and neighborhoods as people–people with ideas and emotions shaped by their history yet important no matter their history.

I also want to go on this trip because I have never been to Africa but have always had the goal to see as much of the world as much as possible. Also, there is no better way to travel than with a significant purpose. I want to meet young girls and old women, to know what they know so I can relay to others what connects us, and help reconcile where we are disconnected. I want to be the person to tell about the organization that has girls stay in school during their menstrual cycles and has given women birth control and education so that they might not have to outgrow their means. I am excited to write the truth even if it is difficult and sorrowful.

With or without this trip I will continue to collect stories of empowered women and continue to meet people who inspire and challenge me. Even if it means a little red wine needs to be spilled every once and awhile.

By Anna

In the November/December issue of the Utne Reader “an educator challenges society’s assumptions about intelligence, work, and class” in an essay about the lost intelligence of the working class, the blue collar community.

Coming from a blue collar, rodeo rearing, gossip-ridden town in Montana, where you’ll run into someone you know every time you leave the house, I left town right after high school. But once a year, usually Christmas, I, the college-educated elite, venture back to my working class roots and act as though I’m better than all the ones who stayed.

“If we think that whole categories of people—identified by class or occupation— are not that bright, then we reinforce social separation and cripple our ability to talk across cultural divides,” said Mike Rose from Utne.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars studying a minor I leave on the hook of my Minneapolis home as soon as I head for the mountains. I study cross-cultural missions at Bethel and learn how to relate to people from other cultures in order to someday not only educate them biblically, but for them to educate me culturally.

There were times in my two weeks in Montana when I thought I was better than all my peers who are “stuck” in Great Falls. Because I’ve read multiple 1,000 page books in one year and now live in the most intellectual city in America. But I’m not free from ignorance, no one is; yet I perpetuate the stereotypes of community college students and gunslinging Baptists because I can’t see past my pride and recognize the value of another culture.

Instead of staying indoors all Christmas or ducking behind shelves at Barnes and Noble to avoid that 12th grade math teacher. I said hello to my sophomore biology teacher and senior English teacher to continually glean that blue-collar wisdom that might just be necessary for reconciliation and a more holistic future for America.