The Four Horsemen In Conversation: on philosophy, discourse, and the seeming infallibility of religion

This is a great video of great minds in discussion. In an in depth conversation of religion, philosophy, and the struggle for their cause; Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens open up earnestly about their work, their critics, and how they understand each other. It’s quite long and no action, so I suggest it as a podcast while you work, clean, cook, or do whatever you do.

I grew up in a spiritually Catholic environment and stopped practicing in my early teens. Before that, I already had begun to question my faith which caused me much trouble. When I moved to New York, I picked up Dawkins’ The God Delusion and every doubt I had was confirmed and reaffirmed. I never looked back. From there I began my research and since then, have engulfed myself in religious debate. This video is different in mood and context of which these men are known to present themselves. They are having an earnest and challenging conversation with each other. Often established as offensive and arrogant by pundits, this video honestly demonstrates the men behind the headlines.

I’ve been a long time fan of these men. Not because I hold similar ideas and convictions, I’ve become admirable to their intellectual tenacity and fearlessness towards being debated. Even if you are a believer of a specific organized religion or hold yourself to be an agnostic, I suggest you look at their work for the mere concept of being emotionally and intellectually stimulated in one capacity or another.

 

 

 

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Why Support a Woman’s Right to Choose

I often find pro-life posts on my Facebook News Feed. It’s not surprising to me since I come from a highly catholic and conservative environment, while I myself am a lapsed one. This is a response to the rhetoric I find coming from that environment.

  1. The God factor: Often people will use religion as a reason as to why they oppose abortion. The language goes from something like, “The sanctity of life” to “Man is not God.” The problem with this argument is that man creates man. Whether you believe in God or not, we as biological-rational beings, choose (or not, but do) to make more of us. People choose to have children, or people have sex which results in a child. We are conscious of this. We know unprotected sex (can) = child. It’s science, biology, the fact of life and how animal in general multiplies. Therefore, to say that it was God’s doing, well…sure, but that would mean that man then, is not responsible for reproducing, which we are and we are aware of this. There’s no immaculate conception, and if you believe this happens, you’ve got bigger problems. Therefore, abortion is much of man’s decision as it to procreate. We are responsible for who we put on Earth. Which takes me to my next point.
  2. Shouldn’t be doing it if not ready: Yes, teenagers are not ready to be parents. Some adults are not ready to be parents. But guess what. It happens. It’s biology, hormones, and the way the world works. Never in the history of humanity has the repression of sex worked. To use this as an argument is to live in la-la land. Furthermore, this argument belittles the realities of the social world. Low income communities with lack of resources to sexual education and contraceptives, are the ones that suffer the most. This is also in part the government’s doing when there is maldistribution of resources, particularly for women in vulnerable domestic situations. To place full on responsability over the shoulders of a young girl from a low-income household where she could possibly have suffered abuse from a relative (which is statistically the probability), is, to me, offensive, insane, and detrimental to the well being of not only her, but society as a whole. She, herself, probably didn’t choose her own situation and she should not be punished because of it. It’s easy to place the blame on women and call them murderers. First, it’s a two way street; takes two to tango. Second, having a child is a serious responsibility. Forgive me, but I rather have a child spared the possibility of terrible life than have them be subjected to situations they didn’t choose themselves. The situation is much larger than a one night discrepancy. It’s called reality. This takes me to my next argument…
  3. They are being selfish, the child didn’t have a say: Well, children don’t ask to be conceived either. The people having them do (or don’t). I’m also sure, the child won’t choose their name, their education, their religion, their family, their nationality, their family’s income, their clothing, their government, their food, and basically anything else, until much later. If a woman, or couple, doesn’t believe that bringing up a child is the right thing for that child, or them, they shouldn’t have to. There’s many young women who have unplanned pregnancies and decide that it is simply not the right thing for anyone. Maybe she doesn’t have money, she was abused, she didn’t have the proper education, “god-forbid” she’s 14; the reasons don’t really matter and they shouldn’t have to be in horrible situations to have to argue why it is the right thing for them. When you have the child, you are responsible for that child’s survival. It’s serious business. If someone doesn’t want to raise someone else, they shouldn’t be coerced into it and neither should the child. There’s enough abandoned and abused kids in the world.

Lastly and more importantly, women deserve a safe environment where they are able to discuss their options without secrecy or fear of being personally attacked or judged. Making abortion clinics inaccessible and pushing stigma over the issue does not deter abortions as a whole. THIS IS A FACT. For example, after a Texas law restricting clinic abortions was pushed, clinics have started to receive calls from women looking for tips as to how to have a home abortion. This devastating fact has actually caused Texan home abortions to rise dramatically. This is unsafe for women, psychologically devastating and simply…terrible. They are forced to do something that no one woman actually wants to go through. No one in fact wants an abortion, but they choose to because, to them, it is their best option as they see it. Furthermore, especially in highly religious and conservative communities, women will often secretly try to find information through people and online, often fearing the social stigma that comes along with it. They are shamed into pretending nothing is occurring and don’t look for the proper support they need in a time such as this one. Pushing stigma and fear on women for the sake of an ideology is far more harmful to that woman than anything else that can or could happen in a situation where they are considering to take this route.

When people support a woman’s right to choose, it’s not that we are supporting death. We support the choice of rationality over ideology and freedom over coercion. We support the choice of safety over danger and comfort over authority. We support education and resources when needed, not an idea. We support the choice of a bright future no matter what the decision. That is what we are supporting.

Feminism: Mexico’s Dirty Word

Actress Emma Watson sat down to interview Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, about her recent documentary, “He Named Me Malala”. During the interview, both women, activists for equal rights of women, discussed the misrepresentations often placed on the word feminism. Malala explained to Watson how she initially was uneasy about adopting the label of ‘feminist’ due to the negative connotations that often trail it’s meaning. As they discussed the term, Watson was moved to learn that it was her speech at the United Nations about her work with HeforShe which made Malala reconsider her association to the word. Watson was the reason as to why Malala now refers to herself as a feminist. But the activist’s uneasiness towards the term ‘feminist’ is not out of the ordinary.

Mexicans know the term machismo well. Recently, in conversation with friends, it was expressed that they view both labels as extremists. But that, there, is the problem. It is a misunderstanding to pit both words, machismo and feminism, against each other. It is important to not confuse these terms as antonyms. Machismo has as a definition: the flaunting of what is masculine and domination over women. The term reflects a patriarchal history where women have suffered second class citizenship. It reflects statistics that demonstrate inequalities with employment, homemaking decisions, income, sexual and emotional abuse. It is a term which describes an ingrained character within our culture based on antiquated and tired social rules. Feminism is not its opposite but its end.

Feminism is not the domination of man, but its equalizer. Feminism is not a dirty word, but an eraser of a past in which women has systematically feared making choices for themselves. Choices which encompass her home life, her finances, her opinions, and her body. Simply put: feminism is the advocacy for women’s equal rights to man on the political, the financial, and social.

The importance of making clear what this term, feminism, means, is a responsibility towards the wellbeing of our communities. As women we must not fear the term itself, but our uneasy attitude towards its misinterpretations. Being a feminist is not going against man, but along with him. Being a feminist is not shutting up man, but communicating with him. Being a feminist is not raising arms and entering a war of the sexes. Being a feminist is the belief that as human, you deserve the same rights that are given to man.

The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), published statistics in 2008, which demonstrate the gender disparities in the various public and private sectors of the state of Nuevo Leon. In their publication, they express:

“El desarrollo humano de un país no puede alcanzarse si no se tiene en cuenta a la mitad de la población, es decir, a las mujeres.”

A country’s human development cannot unfold itself you do not take half of the population insto account. That’s to say, women.

“La discriminación, la violencia y la amenaza de la violencia que padecen las mujeres por el hecho de serlo, en prácticamente todos los ámbitos de sus vidas, las frenan en el desarrollo de sus capacidades, inhiben el ejercicio de sus libertades y, en consecuencia, se violentan sus derechos fundamentales. Atender la discriminación y la violencia en la entidad es un imperativo urgente si se quieren alcanzar mejores niveles de desarrollo que abarquen el ejercicio de la ciudadanía plena de las mujeres.”
The discrimination, the violence, and the threat of violence which women suffer for being women, in practically in every aspect of their lives, stops in its tracks their development of their capacities. They hold back the practice of their liberties and, consequently, violate their fundamental rights. Attending to the discrimination and violation is an urgent imperative if we want to reach the best levels of development of women’s full practice of citizenship.

Personally, I have women in my life whom have succeeded in an incomparable way to our predecessors. I am a feminist because my mother has, for 35 years, owned her own business. I am a feminist because I have a sister who is an architect and another one who is a fashion designer. I am a feminist because my father recognizes my place, my voice, and my vote. I’m a feminist because I observe women around me, continually break down barriers which continue to limit our advancement. More importantly, I am a feminist because there are women who live in silence. Women who fear having a voice. Women who continuously feel defeated out of fear of their own survival. Feminism isn’t a dirty word as is machismo. Feminism is our rights.


Watch Emma Watson and Malala’s great interview here

Feminismo: La Palabra Sucia de México

El 4 de noviembre, la actriz Emma Watson se sentó en Londres a entrevistar a la activista Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, sobre su reciente documental “Él Me Llamó Malala”. Durante la entrevista, ambas mujeres, luchadoras por la igualdad de la mujer, discutieron la confusión sobre el significado de la palabra feminismo. Malala expresó que cuando escucho la palabra por primera vez, sintió una inquietud por adoptar la etiqueta dado a las connotaciones negativas y malas interpretaciones que tienden a perseguir su significado. Durante su conversación, Watson se conmovió al aprender que fue su discurso a las Naciones Unidas cual causó que Malala reconsiderara su asociación a la palabra. Fue el discurso de Watson la razón por la cual Malala ahora se refiere a si misma como feminista. Esa inquietud hacia el término feminismo que sintió la mujer que se desvive por los derechos a la educación de niñas, no es fuera de serie.

El mexicano conoce bien el término machismo. Recientemente, en discusión con amigos, se expresó que observan ambas etiquetas como extremistas. Pero he ahí el problema. Es un mal entendimiento observar ambas palabras, machismo y feminismo, a la par. Es importante no confundir estas palabras como antónimas. El machismo tiene como definición el alardear lo masculino y la dominación total de la mujer. El término refleja una historia patriarcal en cual la mujer a sufrido un posición de ciudadanía de segunda clase. Refleja las cifras de desigualdad en empleo, toma de decisiones en el hogar, ganancias laborales, y abuso sexual y emocional hacia la mujer. Es un término que describe un character empedernido en nuestra cultura basada en reglas sociales antiguas y agotadas. El feminismo, no es su contrario pero su enfreno.

El feminismo no es la dominación del hombre, pero su equilibrador. El feminismo no es una palabra sucia. Es un borrador del pasado en el cual la mujer sistemáticamente a temido tomar decisiones por sí misma. Decisiones cuales abarcan su núcleo hogareño, sus finanzas, sus opiniones, y su cuerpo. Sencillamente, el feminismo es la defensa por la igualdad de la mujer al hombre en términos políticos, financieros, y sociales.

La relevancia de aclarar la realidad del término ‘feminismo’ es una responsabilidad hacia el bien de nuestras comunidades. Como mujeres tenemos que no temerle al término mismo, si no a nuestra inquietud a su malinterpretación. Ser feminista no es ir contra el hombre, si no a la par de él. Ser feminista no es callar al hombre, si no poderse comunicar con el. Ser feminista no es agarrar armas y entrar en una guerra de los sexos. Ser feminista es creer que mereces los mismos derechos que se le ceden al hombre como entidad humana.

El Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), publicó cifras en el 2008 que muestran los diferentes sectores públicos y privados en los cuales reflejan la disparidad entre géneros en el estado de Nuevo León. Expresan en su publicación:

“El desarrollo humano de un país no puede alcanzarse si no se tiene en cuenta a la mitad de la población, es decir, a las mujeres.”

“La discriminación, la violencia y la amenaza de la violencia que padecen las mujeres por el hecho de serlo, en prácticamente todos los ámbitos de sus vidas, las frenan en el desarrollo de sus capacidades, inhiben el ejercicio de sus libertades y, en consecuencia, se violentan sus derechos fundamentales. Atender la discriminación y la violencia en la entidad es un imperativo urgente si se quieren alcanzar mejores niveles de desarrollo que abarquen el ejercicio de la ciudadanía plena de las mujeres.”

Personalmente, tengo mujeres en mi vida que han logrado un éxito incomparable a nuestras predecesoras. Soy feminista porque mi madre lleva 35 años trabajando dentro de su propia empresa. Soy feminista porque una de mis hermanas es arquitecta y la otra diseñadora de modas. Soy feminista porque mi padre me da mi lugar, mi voz, y mi voto. Soy feminista porque observó a mujeres de mi alrededor romper con las estructuras previas que continúan a limitar nuestro avance. Mas importante, soy feminista porque dentro de mi pais hay mujeres que viven en silencio. Mujeres con miedo de tener su propia voz. Mujeres continuamente derrotadas por el miedo a su propia supervivencia. Feminismo no es una palabra sucia a la par del machismo. Feminismo es nuestros derechos.


Vean la increíble entrevista de Watson y Malala aquí

A Response To Critics of My Last Post

I’ve been getting a lot of heat for my last post on racism in my home town. I fully accept all criticism and commentary over my lack of citations and lack of historical references. The post is meant to be an observation and not a full fledge academic essay. When I wrote the piece I had no idea the inmense spread it would have. It’s been read over 8 thousands times and I was not prepared for such a thing. I would like to thank the readers. While I realize it lacks scientific refrences, I do believe that its spread means something. It’s opened up the discourse on class relations and that is more than I could have asked for. Thank you for your comments and criticism.

Español:

He recibido bastante critica por mi ultimo post de racismo en mi comunidad de Monterrey. Acepto todas las criticas y comentarios sobre mi falta de citaciones y falta de uso de referencias históricas. El post trata de ser una observación y no un ensayo socio-científico histórico. Cuando lo escribí, jamas pensé que seria compartido tanto. Se ha leído mas de 8 mil veces y no estaba preparada para eso. Quiero agradecer a todos los lectores. Mientras reconozco la falta de citas, si creo que se a leído tanto por algo. Se han abierto las puertas a el tema de clasicismo/racismo y es mas de lo que pude haber pedido. Gracias por sus comentarios y criticas.

(si me español esta mal, es porque no he escrito en español en bastantes años y pido perdón por ello.)

Sources: CONAPRED , Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación

http://www.conapred.org.mx/

http://noticias.terra.com.mx/mexico/estados/monterrey-es-donde-mas-se-discrimina-en-mexico-conapred,553bdcb346cc7410VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html

Monterrey: The Most Racist City in Mexico

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The U.S. has been going under construction over race relations since the rise of viral videos in which police men are seen unjustifiably arresting black men (and some women) and often killing them. President Obama has made this issue his last venture for the upcoming last months of his presidency. He has become the first president to visit a prison and has begun to be outspoken about the disparity between imprisoned Black and Hispanic men versus White men. Then there is Trump.

As a liberal-progressive Mexican in New York, I often find myself taking a specific role in social media. I have made it a thing to comment, share and write on social issues that I find pressing. In school, I am surrounded by similar-thinking minds with whom I discuss current events and theorize about their social implications. But there is an unfortunate thing happening: I am speaking to the choir.

As Mexicans, we know well who Donald Trump is. We are infuriated with the rhetoric and scared of its implications. Most of us, stand against him and what he stands for. We find those that support him ignoring the facts and dismissive of the role the U.S. has had in our country’s need to emigrate. But I find a similarity between the privileged progressive Americans and the privileged Mexican communities, like Monterrey, in our role of speaking out. African Americans talk about it all the time. It’s of the fact that white privilege is there and it has a major impact in the discourse of race relations. In Mexico we fail to do this. Much of it has to do with class relations. In fact, what we fail to do in Mexico is acknowledge that our understanding of skin color is correlated with our understanding of social class. I’ll let you into a little secret, Mexico is in fact a racist country.

First of all, it needs to be said: lighter-skinned communities tend to be much better off then darker-skinned communities. This is not arbitrary. It has everything to do with our history of European colonization. But because we see it as far in the past, it is now seen as a purely social class issue. But in daily discourse this comes out in a variety of ways. Last names matter, ethnic lineage matters, and location of current address matters. Worst of all, skin color matters. We take pride in our mixed history as if it were representative of who we are as individuals. I talk about this with my mother all the time. We discuss how our community of San Pedro, in its infinite wisdom, takes pride in family wealth which has trickled down as some sort of social entitlement. Who your family is defines who you are. It is not about what you’ve done but what your name represents.

A recent poll came out in which it demonstrated that lighter-skinned people are more likely to be hired and sustain a long lasting education. Anthropologist Regina Martinez Casas noted that it is the indigenous that suffered discrimination the most but, ironically, it is these lighter-skinned groups whom are the minority. Ricardo Bucio Mujica visited my home town of Monterrey and discovered that my place of origin holds the number one position as the city in Mexico to discriminate against indigenous, women, and homosexuals. This is upsetting, not only as a fact, but because I am not surprised.

I will never forget a moment in one of my trips home in which I learned the term “nopal en la cara”. I had never heard of it and asked for clarification. It means that a person proverbially wears a cactus on their face. I was shocked. They were talking about someone they knew. As a way of putting them down, they resorted to use that phrase. It basically implies that they are some how lesser because they have darker skin. My first thought was, “Well, what does that have to do with anything?” This is where we need to begin talking about this issue. This phrase and terminology demonstrates a deep rooted issue that is embedded in racial relations in my community. What does it mean to have darker skin? As Martinez Casas noted, lighter skinned individuals are the minority. Why is it derogatory to have darker skin in Mexico?

My own hypothesis is that is has to do, again, with social class. Because its so embedded in the structure of our daily lives, we assume darker skin means less education and lesser financial standing. It is so deeply rooted, we don’t even question it. But this is a problem. How can we root for our own people in a foreign country when we don’t even acknowledge them in our own? I find it ironic that we quickly call Trump a racist when we ourselves play into it in our own communities. When the movie “The Help” came out, I am not kidding, my friends and I found a lot of similarities between the movie and what occurs in our own homes. That was the 50’s; it’s 2015. I even once tried to make it a project in one of my classes. Bringing up the subject in a liberal-progressive institution was one of the most uncomfortable moments I’ve ever had. Not only could no one relate, no one could understand what the hell I was talking about. Why? Because it’s shocking. It’s shocking how we understand class relations in Monterrey; how we understand race relations, and how we approach it in our everyday life. It’s worth noting that it is easily visible in the service sector of our economy. I don’t know where to go from this, but I do believe it is worth bringing up. Particularly in my home town. The number one city with the most discrimination against the indigenous.

We should stand against Trump. He is creating a hostile environment for our emigrant friends. But I’d like to also put it on the table that we must start questioning what role we play as those that are better off. What do we do to help the situation? Who do we choose to give a job to? Who do we choose to invite to our homes? How do we treat those whom we’ve historically chosen to view as lesser? It’s time to talk about it. If I can suggest anything is; the next time you are in an expensive restaurant with friends or family, take a moment, look around, and think.

EDIT: For those who question my sources; look up CONAPRED, the institution which conducted the study.

http://www.conapred.org.mx/

http://noticias.terra.com.mx/mexico/estados/monterrey-es-donde-mas-se-discrimina-en-mexico-conapred,553bdcb346cc7410VgnVCM10000098cceb0aRCRD.html

Our Face: My Parents and Me

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Since my last post, I decided I wanted to start bringing in a more personal side of myself to this blog. Since that decision, I have had a hard time deciding how to do it. It involves somewhat unique experiences that have permeated so many areas of my life that choosing where or how to start has been overwhelming. But I have to start somewhere so I’ll start with the toughest part. I’ll begin with the people that made me, my parents. The reason I want to talk publicly about them is because we all have complex relationships with our parents, and that’s okay. Mine has been somewhat unique in that it has in part been based on my own circumstances of having been born with facial deformities. I want to share some of that relationship because the experiences I’ve had of being born that way, are not only mine, but theirs as well. I bring them into this, not only as a way of sharing with you my experiences under the knife, but as a way of expressing that I know my struggles are not my own and that they are constantly there with me.

After having been going to therapy in NY for a while, my parents started questioning the reasons behind it. They questioned the effectiveness since I’d been going for a couple of years and saw no end. In order to ease them on the idea, I invited my mother to come along with me to a session in one of her trips to NY. After having struggled to explain why it was a good thing I was going, my mother confessed something during our session that changed everything for me. She said “We’ve actually been waiting for it.” Meaning, she and my father had been waiting for the day my experiences under the knife would get to me. This not only made me cry, it calmed me.

My mother went on to explain to my therapist that when I was born, my mother told my father that they were going to do anything and everything they had to do to make me feel as normal as possible. That turned into over a dozen of reconstructive surgeries (I don’t actually remember the number now) from ages 5 to 20, travelling miles within the US, meeting some of the US’s most important doctors, weeks or months away from school, having had my mouth wired shut for two months, looking funny with weird apparatuses on my head, awkward interactions with curious strangers, and a lot of confusion about myself. I’ll be honest about something; there was also a lot of anger. Mostly towards my parents.

When I was younger I saw them as the culprit for my experiences. I blamed them not only for who I was but what was, as I saw it, being done to me. We now laugh at some of my childhood behaviour. We talk about how I would hide my mother’s keys to make her late for work or how I would say I hated green eyes (she has green eyes). But by the time I started opening up to my therapist in NY about my experiences in the surgical room, I also began talking about it a little more with my parents. When I was depressed, they were to blame, but when I felt better, they were and are my heroes.

I was often angered by the idea that they wouldn’t let me feel bad about myself. They were there and were supposed to be the ones to understand. But also, they were there. It hadn’t occurred to me how scary it was for them. Of the few memories I have (I’ve blocked out a lot), one of the more intense ones is having woken up from surgery, confused, not being able to move or properly see, and having my father shakenly hold my hand while we both sobbed. Another one is them attempting to blindly screw in a surgical screw in my jaw while a laid on their lap in pain. Another is them watching me frantically squish a fry into my wired-shut mouth out of frustration and hunger. By my twenties these were not my memories anymore but theirs. Mine now involve my experiences with having low self-esteem which continue to affect my everyday behaviour, theirs are the actual events that happened to me. I had dismissed this part.

I often become so self involved in my problems that I dismiss the reasons why they can’t deal with that fact that I have had problems. They dedicated so much of their money, time, and sanity to making me feel as beautiful and normal as possible that I can now understand their struggle. I could say that I am now happy and grateful but it’s still complicated. What I can say is that this journey of mine has made me think twice about how I deal with my situation. Yes, it happened to ME. But it also happened to them. And that is a complex relationship. For more that I have wanted them to accept everything I feel, I also have to accept what they feel. That has been the biggest lesson of having my face. When I started going to therapy, I was angered at the fact that after a while they started disapproving of it. My parents struggle to understand why I have had issues accepting myself but having had that session with my mother made me realize that they struggled too. At 24 I finally got to hear a little bit of their side of the story. It wasn’t easy either. The year after, I found myself rebelling in different ways and, I can now begrudgingly admit, attempting to get their attention through it. It made me feel petty and childish but it was based on this complex relationship I reference. It’s weird to look back at my behaviour and feelings in the past and admit to myself that much of it depended on my relationship to my parents. But this is because what happened to me also happened to them.

Some days I still struggle with myself. But that’s okay too; it’s been a long journey. But I also have to accept that the reason my parent’s struggle with this is because they love me that much. It’s been a journey of accepting that they did everything they could in order to see me be as happy as I can possibly be, while accepting that it came with a price. My parents are my heroes because they make no excuses (I have plenty for us all). While it was difficult for them to put me through the ordeal of surgery, they did it because they love me, period.

Most people in my life don’t know this side of my story. But it is the most important one. I’ve always made it about my emotional struggles and the mistakes I’ve made. But that is for me to overcome. The important part is that I can now step back a bit more everyday and see my experiences as shared experiences. It is not only about me, but about everyone that was with me during those experiences, particularly my parents. I haven’t made it easy on them and that is a fact they’ll appreciate me admitting. Unfortunately it was because they love me that much. I needed someone to blame and so I blamed the people that were there. The people that held my hand. The people that played with me in hotel rooms and called me beautiful. I needed to blame someone and so I blamed the people closest to me. For that I will always be sorry. But it was also because I love them that much.