Letter to Chomsky

Dear Noam Chomsky,

Hi, my name is Jason and I'm a graduate of UC Santa Cruz. I've decided to write to you because I have recently seen a posting of one of your email responses to some random person and it made me think that you actually might respond to mine.

I want to say that you have been one of the largest influences in my life (including John Stuart Mill and Ralph Nader); I quote you constantly anytime I have a serious discussion.

I also want to say that I try to implement my beliefs, my philosophies into my life. I'm currently in China teaching English and I always try to implement independent thinking into my lessons. Sometimes I give my students censored material because I want them to question what they've been told. I'm surprised at the extent of the censorship here; it really angers me and I try to struggle against it. I guess it's my way of being an activist (I've always wanted to be one, but couldn't imagine myself marching outside and going head to head against police). I don't know how much difference it will make, but I will continue.

Anyways, I have been pondering a question for awhile and I think I've recently concluded on what I think, but I wanted to know your perspective.

I was on the subway yesterday and a homeless woman asked me for money and as usual, I ignored her. I ignore every homeless person who asks me for money and it has been bothering me for years. I'm a person who wants to “save the world” and I plan my life accordingly to how I want to do it. I dream about working with wind turbines and solar panels and I talk about it all the time with my friends. My goals are very ideal, but I feel as if all this “grand talk” means nothing if I don't help the people right in front of me.

Every reason that I have come up with to defend my act, I have concluded, seems to me more like an excuse. I tell myself that I should give them money and that I'll start doing it when I have a career, but it scares me to think that I'm just fooling myself.

What is the right thing to do?

This is really important to me.

Sincerely,
Jason

Beggar

I was on the subway yesterday and this old woman asked me for money, and as usual, I ignored her. I don't usually give money to beggars and I'm trying to figure out why, but something tells me that I'm not going to like what I conclude.

Sometimes I think about what the beggar is going to do with the money. Maybe he'll buy alcohol or drugs or something of that nature. I definitely would not want to assist them in that, but theoretically, they have to buy food eventually (or find it in a dumpster). I guess that's why I would be more comfortable giving them food.

I also think that giving them money doesn't solve the problem and that they're just going to be dependent on begging. But what else can they do? Who's going to hire a homeless person? I wouldn't.

I think it's also easy for me to blame the government because they are not taking care of its citizens. Even though I believe this is correct, in this situation it sounds more like an excuse not to help the beggar.

I want to jump to the conclusion that I'm just selfish and all that talk about saving the world doesn't mean shit if I don't help the people in front of me. At the same time, I feel like I'm not doing myself justice if I just leave it at that. There has to be another reason why I ignore beggars.

I have to say that looking the other way seems to be a natural reaction for me. I don't even think about it, I don't even analyze the situation; I just always ignore them (or at least try to). This leads me to think that it has something to do with my upbringing. I have never made a conscious decision to ignore beggars so it must have been acquired by observation of others (most likely family).

I'm more mature now, I can think independently now, I can analyze situations better than I ever could. So why do I still ignore them? I want to say that breaking habits is hard especially if it's one that has been pretty much life-long. Nevertheless, I can't leave out the factor of selfishness.

On Superficiality

Section 1
In this article, I will attempt to explain my complex thoughts on appearance and superficiality. The first section is the explanation of how I categorize and discern superficiality and the second section is the explanation of my attitude towards it. (I have found it difficult to explain succinctly my opinion on appearance and superficiality, thus, I have concluded to structure the second section in such a way so that you, the reader, will understand me by reading the mental processes that brought me to this attitude). This composition does not in any way exhaust this topic.

Perhaps it may be useful to elaborate, in short, on why I believe superficiality is negative (I want to state here that I believe everyone is superficial to a certain extent). It does not seem to be just to judge and treat someone solely based on their appearance (unless it somehow reveals something about the character of the person, a topic which I leave to another day). Some people are just born unattractive (a very relative word by the way). It is as if you were to judge and treat a person badly because of their race. People should be judged (if judged at all) and treated by their personalities, skills, talents, passions, desires, intentions...in other words, people should be judged and treated based on their contents. I believe that most people do agree that treating someone badly because of their unattractiveness is unjust.

Having stated that, it would be logical that I would not favor anything that supports superficiality; I would favor the opposite, I would favor protest! The list of things that support the system of superficiality includes make-up, plastic surgery, fashion, and exercise (keep in mind this list is not exhaustive). The first two are bolder supporters of superficiality, the last two are not so clear and will be elaborated in more detail.

It is easy to see how make-up and plastic surgery are clearly supporters of superficiality (they are not supporters in the sense that they advocate it, but rather in the sense that they accept it). Both exist for the purpose of looking attractive, to be judged favorably by the superficial society. An argument can be made that wearing make-up (or getting plastic surgery) is for building up confidence and thus, solely inward and not for others. It is understandable how it can serve this role, but I do not believe it is solely inward (and even if it is solely inward, that would mean that one would feel better about oneself because of make-up and thus, would make oneself superficial). I believe there is an external factor to it. For example, if one lived in a box, would one wear make-up? I feel that for most people, the answer would be no. People can be confident of the fact that they are physically attractive, that they will be judged and treated favorably by superficial people. It is definitely not safe to assume that one wears make-up because one wants to be judged and treated unfavorably and it is also not safe to assume that one would wear make-up in total disregard on how one would be perceived by others. It, therefore, accepts superficiality.

The elaboration of my attitude towards appearance and superficiality is quite confusing. I must first explain the discernment of superficiality in regards to fashion and exercise. With that, I will try to smoothly transition to the next section.

It seems to me that these two things can be considered supporters of superficiality, but it would depend on the intent of the individual. If the individual's intent is to dress well so that superficial people will perceive them more favorably, then they are supporting superficiality. If they are doing it for artistic reasons, then no. If one exercises to look thin so that superficial people will perceive one more favorably, then yes. If one does it for health, then no. To put it simply, they can be either or both, the intent determines everything.

The categorization of one's actions can be clarified in the diagram below. However, in the next section, I will also use the diagram to help explain my attitude on appearance and superficiality.

Section 2
In the beginning, I disapproved of the entire superficiality circle, but a closer examination revealed to me that that was false. A question was raised as to whether or not I would find someone attractive if they were overweight. And if I did not, would that make me too superficial. My first thought was that I would not find an overweight woman attractive which of course made me ponder why. Was it solely because society told me that being overweight is unattractive? Or was there some part of it that was deeper than that? I have concluded that being overweight belongs in area 1, and thus, touches upon both superficiality and health. Over weight people are both unattractive and unhealthy, but more specifically, it is because they are unhealthy that they are unattractive. Therefore the answer is no, I am not being too superficial because I am taking health into consideration. To clarify my point, I would also not be attracted to someone who was malnutritioned because it would reflect poor health.

Another aspect I had to take into consideration was art. When I disapproved of the entire superficiality circle, it meant I was also against fashion. This presented a problem because I did not approve of a society in which everyone wore the same clothing. I concluded that it is good that there are different types of clothing, that there is fashion. So, I created a new circle for art and I placed fashion into it. I believe art is something deeper (and beneficial) and therefore, I approve of the art circle.

It would seem that I would be ok with things belonging to area 2 because of the previous statements I made about area 1. However, I must point out a slight difference between the two areas. If one's actions fall into area 1, regardless of one's intention, one should not stop because area 1 corresponds to health. In other words, one should not stop exercising because exercising supports superficiality; the health benefits are worth it.

However, if one's actions fall into area 2, I disapprove of the action if it is done with the intent of supporting superficiality. In this case, there is no beneficial outcome if one supports superficiality.

This analysis is limited to the scope of general morality and intentions; it does not take into consideration the indirect consequences of not being judged and treated favorably by the superficial society.

Chosen Path

I have chosen my path and I am considerably satisfied with it. I depart from Los Angeles on Dec. 23rd and arrive in Beijing on the 24th. Starting Jan. 5th I will take part in a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course which lasts 1 month and upon its completion, receive a TEFL certificate. I will have class everyday from 9 am to 4 pm and at night, I plan to teach English, hopefully both privately and in a classroom.

After I receive my certificate, I plan to mainly tutor privately during the day and teach a class at night. I have not yet decided whether I will attain official employment at an English training institution. To my surprise, I do not have to be officially employed to remain in China, I also have the option of paying a fee to extend my current visa; the latter is the more profitable option.

I am currently not certain how long I will remain in Beijing. I am thinking about staying for 8 months because I want to fly to Germany for a Master's program there which starts every Winter. However, if I am unable to make enough money to pay for my studies, I am willing to stay in Beijing an extra year. Whether or not I will extend my stay will be determined around March, which is the application deadline for the Master's program.

Miseducation

The following is an excerpt from a book I recently read, Chomsky on Miseducation.

Beyond a Domesticating Education: A Dialogue

Donaldo Macedo: I was intrigued some years back by a twelve-year-old student at Boston Latin School, David Spritzler, who faced disciplinary action for his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which he considered “a hypocritical exhortation to patriotism,” in that there is not “liberty and justice for all.” The question I want to ask you is why a twelve-year-old boy could readily see through the hypocrisy in the Pledge of Allegiance, while his teacher and administrators could not? I find it mind-boggling that teachers, who by the very nature of their work should consider themselves intellectuals, are unable or willfully refuse to see what is so obvious to one so young.

Noam Chomsky: This is not hard to understand. What you just described is a sign of the deep level of indoctrination that takes place in our schools, making an educated person unable to understand elementary thoughts that any twelve-year-old can understand.

Macedo: I find it mind-boggling that a highly educated teacher and a principal would sacrifice the content in the Pledge of Allegiance in order to impose obedience by demanding that a student recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Chomsky: I don't find that mind-boggling at all. In fact, what happened to David Spritzler is expected of schools, which are institutions of indoctrination and for imposing obedience. Far from creating independent thinkers, schools have always, throughout history, played an institutional role in a system of control and coercion. And once you are well educated, you have already been socialized in ways that support the power structure, which, in turn, rewards you immensely. Let's take Harvard for example. You don't just learn mathematics at Harvard. In addition, you also learn what is expected of you as a Harvard graduate in terms of behavior and the type of questions you never ask. You learn the nuances of cocktail parties, how to dress properly, how to develop a Harvard accent.

Divided

There is a three way fork in my path.

My first option is to teach English in Beijing again and then get my Masters in Germany.
It is easier for me to find a job in China, but it is difficult for me to get the work visa.
I loved teaching English in China.

My second option is to find a job in Germany and just stay there until I study.
It is harder for me to find a job in Germany, but it is easy for me to get there.
I love Germany.

My third option is to find a job here and then get my Masters in Germany.
It is medium difficult for me to find a job here, but it is the easiest for me to relocate.
I do not like it here.

I am divided.

Letter to Nader

Dear Ralph Nader,

I know that you must be busy, but I hope you take the time to read this letter.

Hello, my name is Jason and I'm currently an organizer for Progressive Future which is a grassroots organization that is supporting Barack Obama. I'm currently having a mini crisis in my life and I know you don't know what I'm talking about, but I promise you will by the end of this letter.

My job as an organizer requires me to canvass many hours everyday in addition to finding volunteers and putting into motion the “get out the vote” effort. I work 14 hour days to help get Obama elected and I must say it is very difficult for me to find the justification and motivation to continue. I know we only have a few days left until the election, but I feel as if I can't work another day.

First, I must say that I'm a horrible canvasser. I feel like I'm bothering people (which I am) and it's against my character to be a nuisance. I always try to avoid annoying people and I attribute this to my upbringing. Therefore, doing this job pushes me to my limit everyday. I have had multiple breakdowns since I started 3 weeks ago and I have confided and vented to my friends, family, and co-workers; it turns out that I'm not the only one who has had breakdowns.

The main advice that I receive from my co-workers is to remind myself that what I'm doing is extremely important. It doesn't matter that I'm bothering people because this is a very critical election. I agree and I understand what they're saying, but that alone is not sufficient to keep me going.

You might be wondering why I'm writing to you today, wondering where you fit into all of this. The answer is, I believe you are a great man. I want you to become president and I'm depressed to know that you won't be.

I believe Obama is the lesser of the two evils so I'm fighting for him, but it's difficult for me to sacrifice my conscience for reality. Let me explain.

I am a man of principle. I read political theory and philosophy in my spare time. It is my passion and therefore, I put a lot of thought into all my important decisions. My conscience tells me to fight for you, but the realistic side of me knows that you won't win and that I would rather have Obama than McCain. Thus, I'm sacrificing what I want to do for what I should do (maybe). I have concluded that fighting for Obama is the correct choice, but deep down inside, fighting for the lesser of the two evils is not enough for me. I want to fight for you.

The lack of passion in my work severely hinders me. I don't have the drive to get the job done, all I have is the fear of what could happen if I don't.

So I guess I'm writing to you today to apologize. I'm sorry that I'm not fighting for you, a large part of me wishes I were. And maybe, I'm writing this letter to you to apologize to myself. Maybe I'm apologizing to my conscience, I don't know.

I want to mention that my favorite quote is the one introduced in the beginning of “An Unreasonable Man.” I nearly jumped out of my seat when I saw it because it describes my philosophy in two sentences. I have been the unreasonable man before in my life, but now it seems that I'm the reasonable one. How ironic that in this situation, I believe progress depends on the reasonable man.

Or does it?

As I stated earlier in this letter, I'm having a mini crisis. I'm torn outwardly as well as inwardly, I'm physically and mentally exhausted. It drains me to ring the next door bell because I'm bothering people, and it drains me to search for more sources of motivation and justification to keep me going.

I want you to know that I will always be a one of your admirers. I can only dream of the accomplishments that you have achieved; my life seems useless in comparison to yours. I hope that eventually I will have the privilege of meeting you and maybe even working with you.

Sincerely,
Jason

Art and Creativity

Recently, I have been exposing and developing my mental capacities to and in the field of the arts. Unfortunately, I have not previously attained training or upbringing in anything related to it and thus, all attempts to create art have hitherto been unsuccessful. This, nevertheless, has neither impeded my endeavors nor interfered with my determination. I must say that this new passion of mine is anything but typical for me, given my earlier opinion on art. It was certainly least bit expected that I would become such an advocate.

A deeper inspection into the field of art reveals that it is quite odd that my personal life philosophy has not brought my attention to it earlier. I am a friend of dissent; I am a friend of those who differ with the status quo, of those who think outside of the box and of those who are creative. I personally attempt to think independently, to think outside of the box and therefore, it seems very odd that I am unable to explain why my thoughts did not already expand into the arts. The only reasonable explanation is that I did not realize the significance of it, its essence.

I am reminded of a German artist who once said that creativity is the fight against normality. Is that not the core of my life philosophy? Is that not what I fight for? I sincerely envy those who have been able to successfully fight against normality. They have kept and developed their innate creativity and have molded it to the specifications of their individuality. They, in a sense, have been more successful in the struggle against conformity than I have. I only wish that their creativity were contagious and I were infected.

Alcohol

I decided to drink for the first time yesterday. I came to this decision because I believe I was adhering to my promise blindly (or maybe being blind is the only way to adhere to some promises), and with my curiosity and current life philosophy of thinking independently, I had to break it. The reason why I adhered to my promise so strictly before was because I wanted to train my discipline; I didn't want to make any exceptions because I thought I would be able some how to justify my breaking of the promise and thus, I wanted to safeguard against it. Obviously I was right, I did end up justifying my action, but I do not regret it. Even though I wanted to train my discipline, I do not think I lost any by breaking my promise.

Unfortunately, the experience was horrible. I was with Ken, Walter and his girlfriend and we were drinking at my house. After drinking two beers, I felt like I had a fever; I was a bit dizzy and a bit nauseated. I went to bed early because I was afraid it was going to get worse (too bad I had to wake up in the middle of the night to pee) and now I feel alright. I think it's unlikely that I will drink again.

New Leaders for New Schools

Forward progression and true transformation of public education is the next civil rights movement. New Leaders for New Schools is at the forefront of this movement, breaking new ground with dramatic improvements in urban school performance. We elevate urban student achievement beyond ordinary to extraordinary. Stellar academic success achieved by New Leaders principals in some of America’s major urban centers is clear evidence that children from all communities can achieve at the highest levels.

Our leaders are influential agents of change who impact not only students and schools but entire communities, producing high school graduates well prepared for college, careers, and beyond. It is our mission to ensure high academic achievement for every student by attracting and preparing outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead at scale.

I had an interview with them last Thursday and I think it went pretty well (the guy said he would forward my resume to the hiring manager). They asked me the typical questions and luckily, they're mainly focused on principle. I have a lot of confidence in my interview abilities because I think it's very easy for me to talk about the principles I believe in and my public speaking skills allows me to express my ideas very clearly. I wish I had the chance to get an interview with every job that I applied to, but I know it's impossible. My resume really doesn't make me look that great, but I think if I had a chance to talk with them, they would realize that my resume doesn't do me justice.

I hate being reduced to that one sheet of paper. You can't see that I have passion on my resume, you can't see that I'm bright. Instead, all you see is my education and my work experience. I AM MORE THAN THAT!!! And even though I don't have a better alternative, it still frustrates me to get rejected from jobs I know that I can do.

Patriotism and Universal Love

Patriotism and universal love are mutually exclusive. I will attempt to prove this theoretical argument with logic. First, however, I must clarify what I mean by universal love; universal love is the belief that we are all brothers and sisters and should be treated as such (this implies, more or less, equality of compassion). Now we may begin.

Patriotism implies loyalty; it implies that if the country requires it, you will be willing to bear arms. It implies that if your country goes to war against another country, you will fight for your country. Ideally, you would think that you should only bear arms if you agreed with the principles. However, the theoretical notion of patriotism and loyalty, as I understand it, does not incorporate this.

Now, let us use a more concrete example. I am American. There are problems in America, but there are worse problems abroad. Who do I help first? This situation, of course, is based on the idea that everyone has the moral obligation to help others. According to this obligation, it would seem that I should help the people who are suffering the most first. However, loyalty to my country would make me want to help other Americans first. Therefore, ultimately, I am faced with the basic decision of choosing between what I should do and what I want to do.

With this logic, I believe it is easy to see why patriotism and universal love are mutually exclusive.

Ralph Nader

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

-George Bernard Shaw

For those of us who have an activist mentality, for those of us who sometimes have the urge to give up hope, and for those of us who have been told to conform, I share this wisdom with you. Progress depends on us, so whenever someone tells us to adapt, whether it be society, teachers or even our own parents, I advise you to not. Do what you believe is right. Remember this, society does not determine what is right, but rather what is acceptable. Be a soldier for righteousness, not for conformity.

I saw this quote when I was watching the documentary “An Unreasonable Man” which was a piece about the life of Ralph Nader. I have to say, after watching this, I've become a fan. Having learned about his life, I now believe that I have been more useless than I had previously thought. This man got a lot of things done, and I mean a lot. I can only hope that I will have such an impressive record when I'm his age. He reminds me of the critical responsibilities that people have but rarely accept, and with his exceptional drive to get things done, it surprises me that he hasn't received universal admiration.

Environment America

Environment America Fellows will get a chance to work with some of the top environmental advocates and organizers in the country, and will have an immediate impact on critical environmental issues. The Fellowship Program gives recent college graduates the training and experience to assume leadership roles in the environmental movement for the long term.

The Fellowship Program positions include, but are not limited to: 

As an issue associate, you’ll master your issue area and build the kind of powerful support it takes to make your voice heard and change public policy. Responsibilities include: researching and writing reports, developing and coordinating campaigns, preparing legislative testimony, building statewide and national coalitions, organizing media events, raising funds, and meeting with elected officials. 

As a field associate, you’ll build and demonstrate support for proposals at the state or federal level to ensure that decision-makers hear from and pay attention to the public. You must quickly master the basics of a variety of issues, and then reach out to individuals, media outlets and organizations to build visibility and gain their support.

Issue associates and field associates may work on any of the following issues: global warming, energy policy, clean air and water, preserving our open spaces, and more. Each associate takes on the critical role of building the organization by canvassing at various times during the year and running a citizen outreach office during the summer.

How cool does this job sound? They contacted me to schedule a phone interview which took place yesterday morning and I guess I passed it because they want me to come in to their office for a face-to-face interview! I'm really excited. I haven't scheduled an appointment yet because they haven't contacted me, but it should be very soon. I really do hope I get this job; it has two things I want: the chance to protect the environment and therefore bring my principles to work, and the chance to use my passion and intellect. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Robot Me

My mom just asked me how my work was today (I just started working for this immigration attorney representative as an administrative assistant) and it bothered me that she asked. Right now, I can think of two reasons why it bothered me: first, I think it's pretty obvious what an administrative assistant does so I thought the question was unnecessary; and second, I don't like the job and the fact that I had to explain to her what I do thwarted the attempts to avoid thinking about it. Now that I'm writing about it, I believe it is more of the latter.

The reason why I don't like the job is because my intellect and philosophy is not required. Everyone tells me that this is how people start off, and I agree. Most people do have to start at the bottom and then work themselves upwards. But to put it frankly, I'm impatient. My mom tells me that there are many things to be learned even at the bottom, and I agree. She says, “These skills might be useful, you never know!” Again, I don't believe she is wrong. But I think the main point I'm trying to make is that I should use my mind when I work; I want my potential to be realized. I don't want to be a robot!!!

I believe these skills that my mom speaks of can be acquired even if I don't start at the bottom. And if I really do need these skills in my future, I trust myself enough to be able to learn them along the way. So the main obstacle is to get a job that requires my mind, but I don't know how to do it. I think, in this situation, my greatest ally would be luck. It is very probable that from now till I'm 30, I will be nothing more than a robot...a robot who wants to be a real human.

Revolutionary Nonviolence Coach

Job Description:
Revolutionary Position Coaching Public School Students in Nonviolence to Confront Racism, Sexism, Meaninglessness and Meanness

The Institute for Community Leadership seeks courageous individuals to work directly with students, teachers, administrators and parents in public schools in the states of Washington, Oregon and California. Applicants must be willing to change. They must be willing to study, write and work in a group setting to practice the art and science of nonviolence; to practice the development of self-control; to practice a constant renewal of the mind; and to practice a commitment to seek truth. 

Position requires working days and evenings, traveling between the above mentioned states and developing the conduct and character of an organizer dedicated to the interests of the majority of our people and to the principles of peace, community and strengthening democracy. 

This job sounds almost perfect for me; the only thing that could make it better is if it were in Germany. Needless to say, I applied to this job as well as to 20 other jobs, but this one seems to fit me the best. However, there is one main problem, they need someone with a car because the job requires the coach to drive between the states of Washington, Oregon and California. I don't plan on getting a car so I just hope that the organization and I can figure out a way around this problem.

I believe that most of the problems in this world, if not all, stem from mentality and therefore, the solution to these problems would be to change the mentality of man. However impossible that sounds is irrelevant, it is the logical conclusion. I actually have reason to believe that changing mentality is not as difficult as it seems. Leaving that aside, I believe a way I can help change mentality is to become some sort of teacher. And I know I said before that it did not matter that much what I did professionally if I could connect with people outside of work, but ultimately, it would be ideal if I could combine the two.

Glow


This weekend was pretty eventful. On Saturday, Ken and I took the green line from Norwalk all the way to Redondo Beach. From there we rode to Manhattan Beach and then all the way to Santa Monica. There was an all night light art festival on the pier called Glow. We stayed only till 1:30am because we had to ride to downtown LA to sleep over at Marlon's house. On Sunday, we went to a block party that was organized by cyclists and pretty much stayed there the entire day.

The ride from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica was probably the most fun because we rode along the shore. The Glow event itself was a bit disappointing because they didn't have enough exhibits, but it was still worth it. I normally don't go to art exhibits, but being down here in Cerritos is extremely boring because it's so uneventful. So, I have realized that going to art exhibits, or doing something that I don't normally do, is actually quite refreshing once in awhile. The block party was a bit boring for me because it's hard for me to be social, but I guess I'm used to it because it didn't bother me that much. I don't know if I ever will be social, but I'm pretty certain that I won't ever care...I think.

Home

It's been great being home. I've already conversed deeply and intellectually with a few of my friends and it's especially awesome because I haven't spoken with them for a long time. I mean I've spoken with them online, but it's more difficult to connect with people through the internet. I think part of this great feeling is the realization of development in your friends and in yourself. Philosophies change and it's exciting to discuss and notice how they have progressed.

I'm not sure how long I will be home for; it would depend on when I find a job or an internship, but I think I'll be here for at least the summer. I've been looking for many internships and jobs in many different fields. I'm becoming less picky by the day. I have to say that finding a job/internship was much harder than I anticipated. I thought my language abilities would give me an advantage over other people, but actually they're not very useful. I would have to find a very specific position to be able to take advantage of my languages.

Departure


Flight departure at 9:00 PM; arrival time at 6:00 PM.

I will miss my friends. I will miss my daily routine. I will miss my classes (some of them). I will miss my teachers (some of them). I will miss the subway, and I will miss the cheap prices. But most of all, I will miss the study bar, the place where my development advanced another step.

Hope

It has been difficult for me to make friends the past couple of years and I believe the reason why is because there are not many people who have the same interests as me. This is, of course, very frustrating because the things I have interest in are extremely important e.g. philosophy and the environment. I believe everyone should be a philosopher and an environmentalist, not in the sense that they must have degrees in those respective fields, but in the sense that they should think deeply and protect the planet.

On a brighter note, I believe that there is hope; I believe an active, persistent minority can enlighten the passive, oblivious majority. In fact, I believe it has already happened as we can see in the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and the environmental movement; battles have been fought and won, all in the name of righteousness. So I tell myself not to be pessimistic, hope is not lost; on the contrary, our influence is growing!

Internship

Thank you for your application for an internship with UNIDO. I regret having to inform you that the Private Sector Development Branch has not been in a position to find a suitable placement for you. 

Please let me know if you would be interested in having an internship in another area.

Further we thank you for your interest in the work of the Organization and wish you every success for the future.

Best regards
UNIDO Internship Coordinator

I'm currently pretty disappointed; I was really hoping to get this internship. On the bright side, at least they asked me if I was interested in other areas, so maybe hope isn't lost. I told them that anything to do with human rights, media or the environment would be fine, but I really don't know if they will find me a suitable position because my background is quite unrelated. Ah well, I guess this just means that I should apply for more internships. But I have to say that I'm not very confident because I applied for this internship through a contact and so I had a bigger chance of getting this one.

I think what made me especially sad was the fact that I was imagining myself in Vienna already. My imagination went wild when I applied; I even imagined writing a blog entry saying that I got the internship. I guess this is just another way of saying that I got my hopes up, but I don't regret it. I also applied for an internship with the EU, but I'm not going to hear back from them until next month so I'll try not to get my hopes too high.

Recognition and Acceptance

I have a responsibility to help people in need; I have a responsibility to this world. I believe everyone  has this responsibility, but most just refuse to recognize and/or accept it. So why do I recognize and accept it? I believe my recognition and acceptance of my responsibility was a direct result of my enlightenment and my belief in love. My enlightenment refers to my mental development during high school and university, but in this case, I am specifically referring to the realization of the effects on the world that America has. My belief in love refers to an ideology which depicts a small portion of how I imagine an advanced society would be.

I hear the US consumes almost a quarter of the world's resources, but only consists of 3% of the world's population. I believe we can all agree that there is something terribly wrong with this picture. This is not only a problem that needs to be addressed, but also a perfect example of how America affects the rest of the world and so, being an American, I have a direct responsibility to the rest of the world. I have also heard that America used to emit the largest amount of CO2 and has only recently been surpassed by China. From this alone, I can conclude that every American has the specific responsibility to reduce CO2 emissions.

My belief in love is the very basic idea that everyone on this planet is one big family; we are all brothers and sisters and therefore, should help one another. Currently, the large majority of people disregard this notion; they care more about the people in their own country which, I believe, is an undeveloped way of thinking. Why should love and compassion stop at the border? If we act accordingly to this philosophy, then everyone would have the responsibility to help other people, regardless of country. This is how I imagine an advanced society would act and thus, being a person striving for a better society, I have recognized and accepted this responsibility.

Uncertainty

I still don't know what to do with my life; I know I want to make a difference, but I just don't know the details. A part of me wants to figure out in what way I can make the biggest difference and another part of me wants to figure out which job would suit me the best. So I guess my goal would be to find a career that would satisfy both criteria. I thought before that I would gladly work for a company that sells environmentally safe technology, but now I'm not so sure. It has nothing to do with my background; I have absolutely no experience in that field. For a short time I also thought about becoming some sort of teacher because it was something I enjoyed doing, but now that idea is also slowly fading away. Even though I felt like I made a difference being a teacher, I think that difference was largely made outside of class by just chatting with the students. If that is true, then I wouldn't need to become a teacher to make a difference; I would be able to connect with people no matter what I do professionally.

Recently, I've been taking more interest into how to eliminate media censorship. This, of course, has absolutely everything to do with where I am now, in China, but it also has everything to do with my being an American. I do believe in freedom of speech; I believe in it so much that it angers me to know that American media is not objective and it angers me to know that the media in China is heavily censored. To tell you the truth, I don't know what to do about it; however, I do believe that if a problem like this were to be solved, it would be solved from the bottom up. I think the people would have to first realize the problems the current media situation creates and then start working towards how to battle against the institutions of power. I guess a career in any step of this process would be quite fulfilling, but we'll see.

Farewell

As some of you may or may not know, today is my last day teaching here at the study bar. I hope I have made it clear to you that I am a person who wants to save the world, and although it is not probable that I will truly save the world, I believe I can still make a difference by doing something little everyday. Thus, I hope I have not only helped you with your English studies, but have also made a contribution to your life; I hope that what I have talked about in and out of class has not gone to waste. If you remember and analyze what we've talked about, then I would have achieved my goal.

In the 8 months that I've taught here, I have purposely picked important topics to discuss because I believe it is a way to develop society and humanity in general. I know that not all of you were interested in those topics and I know that some of those topics might have been completely foreign to you, but I can only hope that discussing about these matters has given you insight into the future.

I am glad to say that I have learned a lot from you. You have given me a chance to see inside Chinese people's minds and as a result, I can definitely say that if we all just think more, we would be able to understand each other better. I do not believe our minds work very differently and even though there are differences between our cultures, I believe critical thinking can surpass these differences and ultimately unite us.

So here I must leave you, our journey together has come to an end, it is time for you to be more independent. I honestly hope that you will further develop yourself and pursue your passions.

Letter

To my fellow philosopher,

I am writing to you today because I have a message to give you. We do not know each other, but we are nevertheless connected through our commonalities. Both of us have trouble maintaining friendships because it is all too rare to find people with whom we can connect. We both receive, at best, tolerance from society due to our “radical ideas.” And both of us struggle with our own faith in humanity because of the ubiquitous stupidity in this world. So you see, we are similar, you and I. And thus, I must tell you this:

NEVER STOP THINKING!!!

The world needs people like us, whether they want to admit it or not. We are the spine of morality, the foundation of principle; without us, society would drown in its own blindness. I dare not say that ethics would not exist without us; I do believe it is something that lives in everyone. However, I do dare say that without us, other innate characteristics might be dominant, and this, my fellow philosopher, is not acceptable. So never be discouraged; our work is too important!

Moment of Silence

Yesterday in class we had a moment of silence for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake; we all stood up silently for 3 minutes. And as the cars were honking and as I was standing there, I realized something. We are human. Normally, when I live my life and see people walking on the street, I see bodies going back and forth. Everyone is going about their day and making money, and that's it; everyone is just doing their own thing. I don't feel the human in people, more specifically, I don't feel the compassion in people, the love in people. I mean, I do see people laughing and getting angry, but I want to see more than that.

Every time I walk by a homeless person, I get a little nervous because I know I'm not going to give them money. I know that I'm going to look straight ahead and just numbly walk by and I know most people do the same thing. So where's the compassion in us? Where's the love? I have realized that the moments when I see the most sympathy is during times of crises. Just like the example with the moment of silence. Sadly, it seems that we need disasters to invoke these feelings out of us. However, what is good about this is that it shows we are still human. It reminds us, or at least it reminds me, that we as people still have love and compassion.

Premiere

I just came back from the premiere of my video “Ethnicity and Identity” and I have to say it was pretty successful. I reserved a room at the study bar and it was pretty much packed (about 20 people). I invited the people who I interviewed as well as my friends and they all seemed to have liked it. I had so much energy the whole day, but I couldn't do anything except think about the event; I had all the things I needed to do running through my head.

I still can't believe that I actually finished it; it feels like I really accomplished something. What's interesting is that when I look at my Bachelor's degree, I feel nothing even though I spent 4 years working towards it, but when I watch my video which took 3 months to complete, I have this inspirational feeling. I have no plans on becoming a documentary film maker, but I can't control my interest in making another video. I'm thinking if I make another one, it would be on Neo-Nazis.

Mental Hospital

I went to a mental hospital today. One of my friends studies social work and this was part of her course, so I just tagged along. I have to say it didn't turn out to be how I expected it; it wasn't nearly as crazy as I thought. I was imagining a big room filled with people doing the strangest things. For example, maybe a catatonic person who was in a weird position, another person yelling at nothing and maybe even someone with delusions of grandeur giving a speech as if he were Mao Zedong. But there weren't any, it wasn't like that at all. Most of them just stood around like they were normal people. In fact, just by their appearance alone, I couldn't tell that they had mental disorders. So I guess I can say that I was a bit disappointed because I was expecting a scene out of a movie. Oh how ignorant I was!

We had the chance to speak with a few of the patients; one of them was excessively happy and the other two were delusional. The excessively happy patient was a 5'10 14 year old boy who was very pleasant to talk to. The delusional patients, on the other hand, were very depressing to be around with - just listening to them speak was extremely tiring because they spoke with very little logic. I can't even imagine how tired the doctors must be being around these people everyday. I applaud them for their strength and discipline!

Responsibilities

Today at the study bar I asked a few students to give me objective reasons why pornography is bad and within 5 minutes, two out of the three left the table. My role at the study bar is to teach English, therefore I feel that my responsibilities surpass teaching grammar and vocabulary, I believe it is necessary to converse with the students, to connect with them. Language is more experience than knowledge. My students have to use their English if they want to improve it.

Moreover, I believe that the content of our conversations should be important. I don't want to talk about the weather, I don't want to talk about food; I want to talk about life and death, I want to talk about what makes us human, I want to talk about passion. But maybe I am at fault and should not talk about such things; maybe I should just teach them the language and fulfill my duties as a language teacher. But what of my responsibilities as a human being? What of my role in this social network we call society?

Is it bad that I want to fulfill both my obligations as a language teacher and a human being by conversing about important matters? I hope not.

The Danger of Patriotism

If I were a government, it would be most likely that I would want to keep my power. In order to safeguard that power, it would be necessary to eliminate or minimize opposition, whether it be political or social, and an effective way to neutralize opposition is to make people love me. To attain this love, I must convince the people that I am doing what I can to improve their quality of life and I would rather not let them know of any information that says otherwise. And in the case in which the people find out controversial information about me, it would be necessary to convince them that I were the “good guy.” In other words, if I were a government, I would want the people to be patriotic. Their patriotism would blind them and thus, would make them malleable; patriotism easily turns into chauvinism. And in the case where there is still opposition, it would be necessary to label them unpatriotic, to publicize that they do not love their country and it is very possible that the patriots would do this for me. It is in this way, not exclusively of course, that I could possibly stay in power, if I were a government.

Shanghai Visit

I've been in Shanghai for a few days now and it's been great hanging out with Joseph. I usually don't get to hang out with him because we're always at different places so I'm definitely appreciating this opportunity. Sometimes I forget how difficult it is to have a person who you can really talk to, especially if the topic is philosophy. I love the fact that we can chat about it; I finally get to fully share all my deep thoughts with him. Besides talking about philosophy, we also bring up funny stories from our past which is always hilarious. It reminds me of why we are close friends and it gives me a sense of home.

We went to a nearby label factory that makes all types of tags for clothing. We had a personal tour guide who showed us the thousands of labels they make as well as the different assembly lines. It was my first time being in a factory and I have to say that I came out of there pretty depressed. Going through the different rooms of the factory, I rarely saw the workers interact; most of them just sat there and did their task (pretty diligent I guess). It was like I was observing robots. Seeing people with passion and life makes me very happy, so when I see the opposite, I'm very disappointed. Maybe those workers do have passion and life, I'm not saying that they don't and I'm not blaming them, all I'm saying is that I saw robots and it made me depressed.

Doctor Teacher Relationship

It is said that doctors work against their careers because if they can truly help their patients, their patients would not return, and therefore, the career would not generate profit. This seems to be true for any type of doctor, for the purpose of a doctor is to heal and improve the quality of life, and if the patients do return, then it would only mean that the doctor was not successful.

Despite the fact that doctors would always have someone new to treat and therefore, would never be in a position of losing a career no matter how successful they were, this logic, I believe, is quite useful. It is useful in the sense that it can be utilized to understand other concepts.

In this specific case, I am using this logic to help me understand the role of a teacher. A teacher does not only pass on knowledge; his purpose is not to give students apples and oranges, only to expect apples and oranges in return. But rather the goal of a teacher is to give students apples and oranges and receive a pineapple. In other words, the aim of a teacher is to encourage students to think independently, inspire them to develop their potential, and motivate them to pursue their passions.

And if in fact the goal of a teacher is to encourage, inspire, and motivate, then it could be said that the role of a teacher is to give direction. And if that is true, then the teacher, just as the doctor, would work against his career.