Sociology 4310: Terrorism and Globalization was an interesting course in that it was a new experience for me in my academic career. The content was not only completely new to me but the way the course was organized was new as well.
I have not once in my academic career focused on terrorism as a sociological phenomenon. I have taken courses in sociology such as education, the mass media, popular culture, women studies, work and occupation, and classical and contemporary theories, but never on a topic such as terrorism. Although globalization was part of the course, I would say the majority of it was focused on terrorism. The fact that it is such a controversial topic, especially in the wake of September 11th, I was really looking forward to taking this course to learn the technicalities of the phenomenon.
The first thing I discovered was that my perspective on terrorism, pre Sociology 4310, was very naive and, I suppose I could say, very filtered. My perspective was very much moulded around what I heard from the media, as this topic is not taught as a discipline unless you’re in upper-level post-secondary education. If you do not attend university, unless you’re fortunate enough to have highly educated parents, family members, or friends who discuss this topic with you, I believe a good portion of the population has the same perspective I had coming into this course. This perspective includes the very Eurocentric, or perhaps American, ideology that terrorists involve individuals from the Middle East and that they simply seek to invoke terror in other people, especially those in the West. Although the latter fact is a true fact, this course taught me that there is more to it than stating it that simply.
This course taught me that there are multiple types of terrorism, and it is not a simple term to either define or understand. The one thing that “blew me away,” so to speak, was the concept of State Terrorism. I was absolutely shocked to learn that the state commits, more than it is realized, acts of terror. I was even more shocked to learn that the state typically hides their acts of terror for self benefit, such as to gain or maintain control / power not only within their own nation for, say, re-election, but also for support to follow through with their desire to enter into other nations. I quickly learned that State Terrorism, in addition to propaganda and the power of hegemony, was what shaped my perspective on terrorism. In a sense, learning about State Terrorism made me feel lied to, and form there I felt disappointed. Learning about State Terrorism also helped me better understand what happened on September 11th. When September 11th happened, and the years following while I was still in high school, I did not fully understand why the terrorists did what they did and, furthermore, I did not even understand the terrorists themselves. I remember watching the news that morning, seeing the towers on fire, and hearing my dad mutter, “It’s Osama Bin Laden.” I did not even know who he was, nor did I understand his terrorist group, Al Qaeda, which was being discussed about in floods over all news stations across the globe. My ignorance led me to shrug my shoulders and listen to what I was hearing from the media, which was that the terrorists were bad and they committed a horrible, inhumane act. As I grew up, however, I began to question the historic event, especially upon self-researching the conspiracy theories. I believed that the towers were struck by terrorists, but I began to not believe that the terrorists did it simply because they were terrorists – I had a feeling there was a lot more to the story than I was being told.
Although I did learn what was “more to the story” prior to this course, I did not look into it as in depth as this course allowed me to. I therefore learned quite a bit and as a result became satisfied in knowing what actually happened and what provoked the terrorists to attack the United States on that day: U.S. Foreign Policy. Better understanding this situation as a whole has, in a sense, given me closure because I do not have a void in my reality. I hated the fact that I knew there was something missing. Understanding things makes me feel good, regardless of how evil it is. I hate the fact that nations commit acts of terror against other nations, sponsor acts of terror and, even more, pretend they do no such thing so that the people of their own nation are oblivious and continue to live their lives unknowingly and continue to support their terrorist government (ie. the United States). I hate even more that these acts are done is pure selfishness. Nevertheless, this course has enlightened me a lot. September 11th is simply one example.
The way the course was structure was also new to me. Although I have taken seminar courses in the past, this course was more seminar-focused than any other course I have been enrolled in. Working with the same group to present three times in the semester was good in that it forced us to learn about certain aspects of the course. My group, for example, studied what creates terrorists, examples of terrorism using case studies, and then focused on the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. Chronologically, these seminar presentations put the pieces of the puzzle together throughout the duration of the semester. The only thing I do not like about seminar courses is that, when other groups are presenting, it is very hard to follow along with what they are presenting one. This is for a number of reasons. For me, I tent to find that it is mostly because some students simply do not know how to lecture. I do not think I am a teacher in any means, but I do acknowledge that it is a hard thing to do well and acknowledge further that many students do not know how to do it in a way that benefits their colleagues. For this reason, it is hard to stay focused on their presentation and, thus, understand it.
Nevertheless, this course was still a new experience for me and I still learned quite a bit as a result. The content was unique and I absorbed a lot of information I had never heard in the past. It allowed me to better understand the world both through historical and present day occurrences. I very much like the fact that I have studied terrorism because I believe it is a commonly misunderstood concept and, therefore, should be focused on more thoroughly both in post-secondary education and even perhaps touched upon in high school. It is not only a concept in theory but it is something that is very much a huge part of our world today. For this reason, people of the world who have the opportunity (ie. have access to any sort of education and are at an age where they can understand the concept) should learn about terrorism. In addition to the concept, the way in which the course was organized was a new experience as well. Overall, even though I think in any course the seminar aspect can be altered to better benefit the entire student body in their learning experience, I enjoyed this course.
Title: In class video shown on October 18, 2011 – “The Causes of Terrorism”
Author: Thomas Friedman
This video was extremely enlightening! It indirectly applied concepts from our course, such as State Terrorism, Dissident Terrorism, theRelative Deprivation Theory, and the Just War Doctrine. The video applied a different perspective on September 11 than I have ever encountered. After learning all about terrorism, and seeing this video, I guess the easiest way to put it is… it clicked.
For years I was trying to understand what happened, because I knew that what was told on the media wasn’t the entire truth, but I didn’t really have the resources to look into it further. Not until this class, anyway. The video tied together what we had learned thus far in class very nicely and it helped me in understanding the side of the story that the media of the western world wasn’t communicating.
I think it’s extremely important for both sides of the story to be told, because otherwise one country is falsely perceived as evil and the other as the hero (depending on which side of the story you’re being told). The fact that an American journalist was the one to produce this documentary is great, because with this documentary he is going to open the eyes of a lot of people, especially Americans.
Title: In class assignment, November 8 2011 – The US Pulling out of Iraq
This discussion was short-lived but I found it interesting since a case study has been written about it. The study’s statement that the Iraqis people are paranoid that bombings / attacks will continue when the US pulls out of the country is intriguing. This is because there are two very different standpoints when it comes to the US’ involvement in Iraq. Depending on where you stand, you may agree with the case study’s statement or you may disagree; you may agree with the US’ involvement or you may believe they should have never gone into the country in the first place.
The latter opinion would not agree with this case study. Because of the US’ acts of State Terrorism / State Sponsored Terrorism in Iraq, the Americans have almost made matters worse in the country because they have gone in and very strongly / violently declared their political view in that country’s internal situation. Furthermore, they took control of power relations and used physical force to ensure the Iraqi people followed their rules.
(Refer to a video previously discussed that applies the Just War Doctrine to the US War in Iraq: http://jlhillier.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/journal-entry-7/).
This video explains this “latter opinion” – the other side of the standpoint that wouldn’t necessarily agree with the statement that this case study declares.
Title: In class assignment, October 25 2011 – Dissident vs. State Terrorism
This discussion was about Dissident Terrorism, which is a type of terrorism committed by non-state movements and groups. Dissident terrorism is also known as terrorism from below. I see it essentially as the opposite of State Terrorism, which is a type of terrorism committed by state movements and groups. State terrorism is also known as terrorism from above.
This discussion wasn’t long-lasting, but I still found it interesting mostly because it was a new concept to me (to compare dissident and state terrorism). It’s interesting to try and stand in the perspective of either side of the comparison (dissident or state), but throughout the conversation I found myself divided. This is mostly because terrorism can be so deadly, but I find problems with the state committing acts of terrorism against its people simply to maintain control or a certain level of social order. On the other hand, I found it troubling that groups are pushed to such extremes such as terrorism to have their voices heard. To me, it’s a very controversial topic but interesting nonetheless.
Title: In class assignment, October 18 2011 – What Causes Terrorism?
This in class assignment was the discussion of the question “what causes terrorism?”
The discussion was open-ended to the class; everyone had something interesting to say, but generally we unanimously agreed upon one answer: oppression. Our discussion swayed between different types of oppression, such as religion or socioeconomic class, but I think it’s safe to say that oppression, regardless of its specifity, causes terrorism.
A term that was primarily focued on was the Relative Deprivation Theory, a theory that describes the reaction a given group will have when continuously repressed from its expectations. This term relates very clearly to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 (Thomas Friedman video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FknmoxhcCXk).
I liked listening to this discussion because it explored grey areas not typically discussed in the general public because of its controversy. For the most part, I agree entirely with the relative deprivation theory and its application to 9/11.
Title: “The Sociology of Human Rights and Social Justice” in Social Justice in Local and Global Contexts
Author: Charles Quist-Adade
This chapter is divided into two parts: it first discusses the definition of Human Rights and everything that falls under it (ie. clarifying what culture is and its importance, defining ”collective rights,” and so on). Secondly, the chapter discusses Social Justice in very much the same way - investigating all sociological concepts that it encompasses.
Briefly, Human Rights is both a large importance in the world as well as a controversial matter. The United Nations defines universal human rights – “universal moral rights that all people possess by virtue of being human” (p.61) – but there will always be events and occurances around the world that challenge these rights, and this is what makes it a controversial matter. However, this is my input. The first half of the chapter simply examines the definiton. The second half discusses Social Justice, which Quist-Adade uses to tie together Human Rights and the way in which those rights are carried out and ensured (thus, social justice of human rights).
The big thing I noticed about this chapter is that not everywhere in the world adopts the ‘laws’ of the Human Rights Act. I can think of numerous examples where human rights are tossed to the side, and this is troublesome.
Title: “Social Justice and the Social Construction of Inequality and Difference” in Social Justice in Local and Global Contexts
Author: Charles Quist-Adade
This chapter discusses how differences between individuals and individuals within a larger social group are socially constructed. Two very key concepts are privilege and oppression, which are two social opposites.
Privilege is an “interlocking system of advantage” (p. 40) that involves benefits and/or rights (the privilege to do / have something) that a person has granted to them solely because they are members of a particular group.
Oppression is the opposite of privilege. It’s essentially a group of people who are not granted benefits and/or rights, like those who are privileged. They are therefore the oppressed.
The chapter discusses how the privileged and oppressed groups are socially constructed. Who is privileged and who is oppressed depends entirely on the dominant group of that particular society and their ideology. The chapter goes into detail about how the process of otherizing, stigmatizing and stereotyping labels those who are oppressed, the “other,” as somehow devaluable to society. This is what causes prejudice and inequality, because those who are labeled as the “other” are treated differently (ie. oppressed) than those who are privileged. The chapter essentially ends with the conclusion that the problem is when stereotypes becomes the act of discrimination – where people are treated unfairly and are left at a disadvantage simply because they occupy a different social group than that of the dominant group.
I found this chapter interesting to read. The key concepts and terms weren’t anything new to me, but they did help me apply the content of the chapter to terrorism because I’ve never taken a sociological standpoint on terrorism before. This chapter makes it easy to see that, in the western world, those who are part of the Muslim world are labeled as the “other” and treated as such, especially when it comes to acts of terrorism. Muslums are automatically seen as terrorists simply because of their appearance and the media’s ability to reproduce the stigmatic and eurocentrically hegemonic belief attached to Muslims that they are all terrorists. This makes it very easy for the average everyday person to overlook other forms of terrorism because they are not exposed to them. One example is State Terrorism – a very commonly adopted practice by a lot of western countries, including the United States.
Title: In-class video shown on September 29, 2011
This video, although it was short, was very interesting. It discussed the idea of “just war” and applied it to the U.S. war on Iraq, or the War on Terrorism.
The Just War Doctrine justifies acts of violence based on two sets of criteria: Jus ad Bellum (justice of war – justified conditions for waging a war/the right to go to war) and Jus in Bello (justice in war – justified conduct/behaviour while fighting a war). These two sets of criteria essentially protect human beings (especially the non-combatant civilians) and ensure that war is kept as moral as it possible can be.
The movie then applies the Just War Doctrine to the US war in Iraq and essentially questions whether the US is following this doctrine. The video stated that the Iraqi people suffered from years of maltreatment and abuse under Saddam, and if the US was going to come in and “fix things” then they had better take control or get out.
The video revealed that in many ways the US soldier’s did not treat the Iraqi people any better than Saddam did. There seemed to be no known/agreed upon collective goal/objective among the soldiers. For example, the film showed US soldiers patrolling the streets of Baghdad. They came across a man in his car. If the man did not move his car like they wanted him to, then they would destroy it. The man ran out of gas and couldn’t move his car, but the soldier’s destroyed it anyway (they drove their tank right over it not once, but twice). The scene ended with a soldier facing the camera, stating, “That’s what happens when you don’t listen!” Is this “just war”?
Although the full video wasn’t shown, what was shown really made me think about 1, how much is actually happening over there that we don’t know about? And 2, it makes me think about alterior motives/conspiracies. I know that the latter is a pretty vague statement, but it just seems so contradictory, from what the video showed, why the US was in there. If they wanted to make things better, why were the soldier’s doing those things to the civilians? It raises a lot of questions and is a huge cause for debate!
Title: “Driving Discontinuance and Quality of Life Among the Elderly” in Issues in Social Justice
Author: Joseph M. Pellerito Jr.
This chapter is about the elderly discontinuing their priviledge to drive and how it affects their quality of life.
The chapter discusses how dependent society has become on the automobile and how, in turn, it has almost become a social construct. The car is associated with one’s social ties. It doesn’t just get you from point A to point B every day. Having access to this priviledge means that, whenever you wish, you can get up and drive to a restaurant to have dinner with friends, or drive across town to watch a sports event. On the other hand, however, not having access to this priviledge makes one feel isolated and a loss of agency is experienced. This is worsened when someone must rely on other people, such as family members, to transport them from point A to point B, because they feel dependent and as though they are a burden.
This defeats the World Health Organization’s definition of active aging, which is “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people age” (p. 81), because:
When older people actively participate in meaningful activities and continue to engage in relationships with family members, collegues, and members of their communities, as well as carry-out civic duties, they are actively aging, regardless of whether they are chronically ill or disabled or both (p. 81).
Take away someone’s priviledge to drive and they cannot do any of the above! I don’t think this is obvious to people, since I think a lot of people believe that we’re passive agents and have to just accept the way the system works.
This chapter is extremely interesting. I really enjoyed reading it because it took on a symbolic interactionist approach to the situation (I’m definitely a symbolic interactionist). I think the author did a great job of defining the situation, and I think he did an even better job outlining it sociologically (ie. discussing Mead’s View of the Self and Cooley’s Looking-Glass Self and applying it to the elderly). I really like that he laid out very clearly exactly how a reader can look at this situation with a sociological imagination, because without it I don’t think it’s obvious to an outsider how debilitating driving discontinuance can be to an elderly person. Without a doubt, this chapter shatters preconceived notions/assumptions about the subject (ie. the elderly are just in denial). It goes much deeper than that, and Pellerito Jr. really helps us dig deep to the roots.
Title: “Human Trafficking” in Issues in Social Justice
Author: Darrick Brake
This chapter is about human trafficking.
It first defines human trafficking as “the purposeful movement of any person(s) to places in which they are sold, or purchased into forced labor or bondage such as prostitution, industrial work, domestic work, or sex slavery” (p. 54).
Human trafficking typically occurs because of 5 reasons – all of which entail globalization, a weak economic system, the need for cheap labour and production, war, and the fact that some countries consider prostitution legal. These are, of course, generalized, but suffice for the sake of a brief summary.
The chapter then discusses the different environments, for lack of a better word, in which human trafficking occurs: industrial forced labour, mining forced labour, forced domestic labour, forced prostitution, forced child prostitution, bonded or indentured labour, and military bondage. Within all of these modes are the victims of human trafficking. Each labour/service essentially dictates its victim. For example, women are typically used for prostitution and forced domestic labour, children are typically used in military bondage, and men are typically used in labour intensive services, such as forced industrial/mining labour (p. 64).
In any case, regardless of the victim, all victims are manipulated, abused, and dehumanized by their “traffickers”. Human traffickers are criminals who see humans as “a type of renewable resource that can be recycled or reused over and over again” for profit (p. 63).
This chapter was a little disturbing more-so because I have never focused on this topic before, and maybe partly because I’m naive. It was a bit of an eye-opener. Nevertheless, I found it interesting and a little reassuring to read that the UNODC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) is taking actions to minimize human trafficking across the globe.