Objective Altruism (Or: What I Believe In)

We have been discussing in our Media, Peace and Conflict Studies class whether objectivity is possible, whether it is practical, and whether it is good.  I think it can, under the right circumstances, be all three.  In any event, this has been an imperative for me to actually formulate and write down the principles that I believe in.  This is not a prescription for anyone else, just what works for me.

1. There is no right, there is no wrong. There are no truths, only half truths.  “Relative right” is understanding “half truths” as they are; “relative wrong” is believing them to be truths.  All conflict stems from relative wrong, all peace stems from relative right.

2. Act always to serve others and never to please them; these are usually diametrically opposed paths.  Be aggressively passive and resented more than appreciated, and you will better both yourself and others.

3. There is inclination and there is duty; this is a dichotomy.  If duty is endeavoured out of inclination, it is false.  If duty is endeavoured solemnly, it is service.  Indulging inclination is the path of relative wrong, service is the path of relative right.

4. Emotion is the forbearer of inclination.  It belongs exclusively in private life.  Reason is the forbearer of service.  It should reign in public life.

5. Believing or disbelieving without adequate evidence is indulgence in inclination.  It is relative wrong.  Instead be always questioning and critical, this is service.

6. In all things, act and speak as though the world was as it should be, not as it is, and in doing so you will help to make it so.  You will be perceived as a fool, a meager sacrifice.

Published in: on 25 September 2009 at 9:45 am  Comments (1)  



Okay, last entry.  Phew (ja ja).

In between the foundation course and the beginning of what I’ve referred to as “real classes”, I went to the Caribbean Coast near Puerto Viejo with eight fantastic people, and had an excellent break.

There were about thirty or forty UPeacers in the area, and we had some opportunities to drink to three sheets and get our reggae on.  (I didn’t see you guys as much as I would have liked too, though!).

The nine of us who traveled together from UPeace stayed in a charming cabin up in the jungle, owned by my friend Wendy’s landlord in Ciudad Colon and his three brothers: glorious hosts.  They really made us feel like family, cemented on the day we left with cries of “¡MI HERMANO!” and friendly, vigourous slaps on my poor, sunburned shoulders and back.  On Sunday night we were planning to go out on the town, but delightfully swayed into a tranquilo night at the cabin with our four hosts starting up an ad hoc band from a guitar, a plastic bucket, and a water bottle filled with rice.  ¡Que cantadores!

We spent the greater parts of our days laying on the beach, swimming in the moody Atlantic and taking light treks up to breath-taking miradors.  Excellent times.  I got my salt intake covered for the next couple of months, extended my tan past my forearms, and didn’t have to completely forgo exercise.

On the way home, the time passed very quickly for me as we set up my Ipod and portable speakers so as to have some tunes, and I had to meet the challenge of musically satisfying seven girls and a Frenchman for over four hours with my selection consisting primarily of Indie rock and folk.  ¡Que trabajo!

So yeah.  Absolutely wonderful trip.  Pictures from others are up on the facebook, will try to upload mine soon.  I guess that’s all I have to say on the matter.

¡Pura Vida!

Published in: on 18 September 2009 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

The University for Peace Experience: MPCS (So Far)


Yesterday we began “real school”, and it appears to be vastly more interesting and challenging than what we’ve done before.  We’ve started out examining the history of media, conflict and technology since the first Peloponnesian War, which is necessarily a dry framework but interesting nevertheless.  Our professor is tremendously experienced in many different fields of media, including international journalism and media institutions, and seems to be particularly knowledgeable in the subject of propaganda (we have forty-five hours of lectures and some twelve-hundred pages of reading on it in our final course).  His English is a bit… eccentric at times; it’s easy enough to follow but I worry for students from the Eastern Hemisphere.  He doesn’t believe real objectivity is possible however… I may have to challenge him on that point in personal conversation.

Assignments for this first course are pretty simple… one hour-long presentation, class discussion, and various short evaluations throughout the classes (oral and written questions on content and readings).

Oh, and the acronym is for “Media, Peace and Conflict Studies“.

Published in: on 17 September 2009 at 11:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

The University for Peace Experience: Foundation Course


We began the UPeace academic experience with the “Foundation Course”.  I’ll qualify the following by saying that this is definitely an important class for those who are either unfamiliar with peace and conflict studies, possess relatively weak English, or have not been in an academic environment for some time.

Ultimately though, I found it very understimulating.  There were a few interesting points, but for the vast majority of the content professed to us I felt confident that I could have given the lectures myself without preparation.  So that was kind of lame, but it was a good chance to meet a lot of people as the classes were mixed, and not drawn along programme lines.

The graded assignments were pretty Mickey Mouse: two 2,000 word papers, one wherein we were to take a conflict of our choosing and apply it to a specific model of analysis (I chose the end of the South African Apartheid) and one wherein we were to examine a conflict from our home country in standard essay format (I chose the structural violence of discrimination against Aboriginal peoples in Canada).  There was also a group presentation on one of five theories at the end of the course (I chose Marxism), which was fun because we had the imperative to wear suits and be all fancy.

So yeah… all things considered, it’s a good programme to have in place, but I kind of wish it had been optional; I would have gladly written a 30 or 40 page research paper in its place.

Published in: on 17 September 2009 at 11:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

The University for Peace Experience

Hey howdy hey hi.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written here, and I feel that I owe the curious an update.

I’ve been studying here at the University for Peace for about a month now, and so far it’s been an incredible experience.  Saving the academic aspects for subsequent entries, the amiability and cosmopolitanism of the community here are simply unreal.  On the very first day I was overcome by the feeling of having made well over one hundred friends in a matter of minutes, and since then I have come to know and (love?) the majority of the people here (looking forward, of course, to getting to know the rest).  The senses of trust, tolerance and friendship you experience on campus are entirely indescribable.

Whatever benefits to humankind may come from the training and transference of knowledge that occurs at the University for Peace, through the students who will take those skills and apply them altruistically around the world, there is fundamentally and undeniably the symbolism of so many people from so many countries, customs and creeds living and studying in absolute harmony, to serve as inspiration for hope, goodwill and global betterment.

Published in: on 17 September 2009 at 10:59 pm  Leave a Comment