Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Note: On How the System Perpetuates Itself

A very blue–eyed BBC–reporter asked his friend recently about the corruption. Hadn’t the system now reached a point where it had become unsustainable? Couldn’t everybody see the discrepancy, between the ministers’ meagre salaries, and the palaces they lived in? Weren’t the people ready to confront the system, which was leaking oil revenue from the state treasury like through a sieve? His friend, a regular Lagosian working man, looked at him with dismay. ‘No’, he asserted. ‘… Yes’, he admitted, reluctantly. Then he explained. ‘This may be the feeling of the regular Nigerian. He feels, it may be his turn tomorrow to have the opportunity to dip his hands into the treasuries’. The driver nodded to this in acknowledgement. ‘I won’t lie to you. That’s the fact, my brother. I might be the next lucky man’.

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The Dighouse

Commercial alert! The new blog The Dighouse is up and running.

For six weeks this summer I’m joining the Vultur Project, an archaeological investigation in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy.
This is my first dig, so I’ll be posting a about my experiences and the things I learn along the way. If you’re interested in archaeology, do have a look!

I’ve finally managed to put up something that is almost decent, so from now on it is going to be updated almost daily.

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News from Oslo and a Norwegian Abroad

24.07.11 Sunday

Early this month I travelled from Norway down to Rionero in Vulture, Basilicata, Italy to participate in the Vultur Project,  a wonderful archaeological investigation funded by the university of Alberta. Very soon I am going to create another blog to document my life and learning here in Rionero, to which I will post a link on this blog. As I have already at this time been here for three weeks however my new blog is going to lag a bit behind, but after the things that happened in Norway on Friday I felt I had to write this post right now about my experiences of it.

There are about 58 people here joining the project this year, most of whom are Canadians and Americans. We are also many Scandinavians here, and particularly Norwegians. Seven of my class mates in the archaeology program in Bergen are participating in this six week dig as well, and there are a handful of more experienced Norwegian archaeologists/archaeology students here. All in all we number thirteen.

Since we came down here we haven’t paid much attention to the news. We were initially almost completely cut off from internet for weeks and most of us can’t read newspapers in Italian. Since about 5 o’clock Friday afternoon however we have been glued to anything that may provide news, computer screens to read online, TV screens in a restaurant to watch images on an Italian news program and cell phones close to our ear to call home and make sure everyone we know in Oslo are all right. When something new is reported we all now within minutes, news travelling like wildfire among us, across the dighouse.

On Friday afternoon a bomb went off in a governmental building in Oslo, killing at least seven and injuring a large number. A couple of hours later we got the next shocking message. A man had disguised himself as a policeman and traveled to the youth camp of the main socialist party in Norway, the party currently in government, and gone on a killing spree on the small secluded island. The news just kept getting bigger and bigger. Some said ten were dead, then one paper reported 20-30, then Saturday morning we heard that at least 80 had died just in the shooting. The number has by now risen to one hundred.

For a group of young Norwegian students abroad at the time this happened, it has so far been a disorienting time. We have been busy with stuff to do and places to see, and meanwhile these news have been looming in the back of our heads. Out of 7-800 young and politically engaged people about one hundred died in one day on the island of Utøya. The exact number is not yet known. About half of the Norwegians here knows someone who knows someone. One of us knows someone who survived but in desperation had to swim to safety. One of us knows only that a cousin sent a message from her cell phone when she was hiding in the water and that nothing has been heard from her since. She is now missing. Tonight, we all sat in a bunch in the hallway, just talking together and trying to settle our confusion.

They say that as the bomb went off and every ambulance, firetruck and police unit available flocked to the capital, the man responsible sat calmly on a train out of it. Many things are still unclear, but the image of him has already gone around the world. They say that he had been to Utøya many times before, getting to know the island and its hiding places. On Friday afternoon he walked around shooting for one and a half hour. They say that after killing over one hundred people he walked calmly into the hands of the police, the world and the justice that the Norwegian justice department can provide him.

I never intended to write about news events or  politics while I was here in Italy, and I will probably wait until after I come home before I try to focus and process it a bit more. But this has had such a big impact on all the Norwegians here and our whole weekend, and probably also on the rest of our stay here and our return, that I wanted to write about it now. I imagine already that the date 7/22 is going to hold a 9/11 kind of meaning to Norway and Norwegians in the future, especially since it is a small country and there are so few of us. This is going to impact each and everyone here.

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Buona Pasqua!

It has now been two weeks since I updated this blog, which is way too long. May my readers rest assured though; I have tons of things I want to write about, and I’m not planning to let this become ‘just another abandoned blog’. My poor excuse is that I’ve just spent a lovely week in Rome, and before that I was stressing because I had a paper due. In order to make up for lost time I have a lot of good questions coming up for you in the next few days, but for now I thought I might share some pictures from last year’s fall semester in Rome. I’ve limited myself to pictures from an early morning jog in (and back home from) Parco Borghese – just a soupcon of what the city has to offer. Having just seen it again in the spring, I still think the fall is the most beautiful. It is now Easter Sunday in Rome, so Buona Pasqua everyone!

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“Be brief, we have to do in decades what Europe achieved over centuries”

After the country achieved independence, a Cameroonian leader said the above.  Kwame Nkrumah promised that with independence Ghana would become a paradise within a decade. Of course we now know it wasn’t going to be as easy as they had thought it would. And I think that illustrates quite nicely how unreasonable it is for us to expect of China, or any other developing country, to be everything we want them to be in a flash. Rome wasn’t built in a day, things like effective legal systems aren’t built in a decade.

We sometimes quite conveniently forget some of the events accompanying the development of Europe and America. Such as a repressive, paranoid church which imprisoned scientists like Galileo Galilei, burned witches, waged Crusades and launched inquisition movements. Or wars that were so frequent that most had lost count before the Muslims brought us paper. Not to forget the near-eradication of Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals, and slavery which was a part of modern Western history into the twentieth century. The things we pride ourselves in having today, came at a price, and it was seldom pretty.

There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with when it comes to civil liberties in China, such as lack of freedom of press and political freedom. Workers rights in China are a particular interest of mine. But if we simply “open the floodgates” I don’t think it will do anyone any good – least of all the Chinese public. The Chinese Communist Party is no longer communist but in name, and it is adapting and gradually loosening up. Already in a few decades it has come far. China is changing little by little, economically as well as politically, and I think it is the way it should be. The CCP is much more competent than the regimes of, say, Syria or Myanmar. And unlike the Soviet Republic, they’re not sitting on their hands waiting for the system to collapse.

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A useful bit of social science jargon

I was partaking in a discussion the other day, and someone asked what ‘civil society’ in fact meant. Erh … yeah, say. We weren’t entirely sure. As we found in a dictionary, it refers to:

‘Interaction between private individuals and institutions and the state’. (A useful bit of social science jargon, yay! … )

Anyhow, the question popped up when we were on the topic of aid distribution in Africa and how miserably it has failed on many points, and how even the effort of pouring money on African NGOs to in the 80s and 90s had somehow evaporated. The problem, according to some, is that there is no civil society in Africa so we’ll need to build that up as well. But is it true? Perhaps the answer depends on what we consider to be a valuable aspect of civil society. If clans, traditional secret societies, or ethnic associations don’t qualify simply because they don’t conform to Western principles, that doesn’t mean that they don’t work and Western style organizations do. If for example Muslim welfare organizations – which seem to bring a lot of benefits to African communities – are ignored or attempted stamped out simply because, that may do a lot more damage than good.

Does anyone else have a different take on this?

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‘Modernity’ and ‘Development’ ?

The term eurocentrism is one that emerged in the period of decolonisation, defined as viewing the world from a European perspective, with all the baggage and implications that comes with. Accusations have flown, and I’m sure you’re no stranger to many of them. Blah, blahblando. This is old news, and I won’t bore you by talking about it in detail. One argument that still has a lot going for it though is that the Western world is still obsessed with this idea that only it knows what ‘modernity’ and ‘development’ is, and what the right way of going about achieving it is.

First of all, ‘development’ can only be good. Further, ‘development’ contains not only infrastructure and economic development and such things, but also ideological changes which comply with Western doctrine (duh). There is also an idea that other countries can only develop in the same direction as the Western states have done in the past!

Do you see any potential problems with this thinking?

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Welcome to my blog, nice to meet you!

Welcome to my blog, nice to meet you!

I am a 19 year old student, with a great interest of the world and its many ways and facets. Thus, this will be a blog about nearly everything – culture, history, language, politics, media, international relations and fascinating stuff that I come across that catch my attention.

This will be a pretty flexible blog, so if you have any suggestions, disagree completely with me on something, notice something I don’t, or have some constructive criticism to come with, bring it on! And if you know something you think I should know (and perhaps put on the blog) I’ll be happy if you share.

Basically, I’ll do my best to try to surprise you from time to time, and to give you something interesting to chew on with every post. And if I don’t I’m counting on you to get the stick!

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