Wednesday, December 20, 2017

“I Do?’ or “Did I?”

 This Blog Post is written by
 Dillon Partap

In antiquity, women and their bodies were seen as property of their fathers. Being property, the father would look for a suitor matching his specific needs for his daughter. This suitor would have to then give dowry to the bride’s father, basically paying for her. 

The Asian Indian arranged marriage process can find its roots in Ancient India, that was much larger then what it is today. India still remains a mostly Hindu country, and in the religion we can find our first origins of arranged marriages. The sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas, describe the rules for arranged marriage and its purpose.  In the Vedas, it talks about the caste system of India, which dominates all aspects of social interaction. In the Hindu caste system there are 4 main castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras); these then are sub-castes or gotras. The belief is that one can only marry within their caste, then sub-caste, but never any of their kin. The Indian Muslim community also adheres to some rules when coming to their arranged marriages. In their faith, there can’t be marriages between the two main sects (Shia and Sunni). Within each individual sect, marriage has to be within their sub caste to be recognized. 

Currently the world is changing and arranged marriages are out of date, or so you think? In the Asian Indian communities the idea of arranged marriage is still alive and well, no matter the location. Specifically, in the Western Hemisphere this supposed tradition is opposed by what the Asian Indian youth is experiencing. The general norm expected by the Asian Indian youth is to obey the choices made by their elderly family members. Especially in New York City where there are prominent Asian Indian communities, the struggle between tradition and assimilation ensues.

In modern western culture, marriage is often the union of two individuals who have known each other for some time through dating. This western norm is what seems to create the tension between tradition and assimilation. Assimilation theory poses that the parents hold on to their beliefs when migrating to a new country, it is their offspring that is raised in this new setting that adapts fully. Arranged marriages appear to have no substance in a society where the individual chooses their partner. It comes down the setting of where these practices were formed. 

Arranged marriages are meant to benefit the family economically, mainly in India due to its agrarian history. A family would have raise their youth in a faith, then train them in an occupation that is multi-generational. This ensures that society flows smoothly through arranged marriages. With western society being highly industrialized, the need for multi-generational jobs became irrelevant. The individual doesn’t bare the stress of finding necessities because through industrialization these become commercialized commodities.   

The speech acts of these marriage ceremonies illustrate the difference between them. In the western wedding is confirmed with the famous “I do”. This speech act shows some sense of choice because of the word “I”. The “I” demonstrates that before the marriage ceremony, one gain a sense of who their significant other is. In Muslim Indian weddings, the speech act “I accept” is used. This backs up the need of some relation through marriage, and choice is usually with the elders of each family.  

In the West, arranged marriages seem to adapt to the assimilation process of the Asian Indian youth. The processes concerning arranged marriages are now marketed in various forms of media. The Indian youth now see ads for various marriage websites. (I personally see them when flipping through the Indian television channels) These websites are usually broken down based on religion. Based on your religion, it then goes into the specifics of the arranged marriage process.  

The use of entertainment sources to reinforce this practice is interesting, because it explains that the process is entering the modern entertainment forms that the Asian Indian youth use. Parents of the youth would see these website ads and use it to their advantage. Using these websites, parents are arranging and analyzing partners for their children. In reality, their children are following social norms of western society. Socializing with other peoples of different ethnic backgrounds, the Asian Indian youth may develop romantic relations with such people. This leads to conflict between family tradition and assimilation. (Basically the story line of every Bollywood production) Parents want one reality, whilst the child may have one completely different in plan. 
So please share your thoughts and experiences with arranged marriages: 

Do you think that the marketing of arranged marriages are apparent in other cultures in the west?
Are arranged marriages in the Asian Indian community outdated and should be done away with?
Some may say that arranged marriages are totally beneficial, but is that the case?

Netting, N. (2006). Two-Lives, One Partner: Indo-Canadian Youth between Love and Arranged Marriages. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37(1), 129-146. Retrieved from

Sharda, B. (1990). Marriage Markets and Matrimonial: Match Making Among Asian Indians of the United States. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 20(1), 21-29. Retrieved from

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Duterte’s War on Drugs

This Blog Was Written by 
Aijo De Castro

More than 7500 people have died in Philippine President Duterte’s "War on Drugs". The Philippines is experiencing chaotic, bloody and horrendous extra-judicial killings. The President’s campaign has stripped poor Filipinos of their human rights. The President believes that criminals don’t have human rights. He states “if you are a criminal, you have no humanity. You deserve to die and burn in hell.” 

In Duterte’s eyes drug users and criminals should be killed. He gave an executive order to kill addicts. “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” He the protector of the people however, the commander-in-chief has failed to protect civil rights.  To him the poor are mere pawns that could and should be sacrificed. Hence, the administration’s War on Drugs does not only violate civil rights but also creates a façade that conceals the corrupt and malicious mischiefs of its reign.

The general population has agreed that Mr. Presidents “War on Drugs” is nothing but a class war. According to recent surveys “3 out of 5 Filipinos believe that only the poor are killed… 60% agreed – 33 % strongly believed, and 27% somewhat agreed that  "the rich drug pushers are not killed; only the poor ones are killed.” (Philstar). 
However, the supporters of the president believe that the killings of thousands is just collateral damage of a new, reformed society. They believe that all the innocent lives that are lost were for a greater cost. The campaign supports killings done by hitman, militias, and those who possess money and power. There is no due process that takes place, nothing but death to those who are accused - the Skwaters (a local term for slum dwellers) …

The severity of the extrajudicial killings is out of control, bodies of alleged drug users, drug pushers and criminals are seen lifeless on the streets of the slums. One of many heartbreaking examples is the death of a father of six. Mr. Manosca, a poor pedicab driver was once a drug user. Over the years he has halted the use of drugs as his family was growing and he wasn’t able to afford the addiction. One Sunday evening, “Elizabeth remembers that evening earlier in December ... from the darkness, gunfire tore through the plywood they used as walls. Domingo was killed. Another bullet struck Francisco in the forehead as he slept nearby” (CNN). As if the tragic loss she had isn’t enough, her bills are piling and her children are hungry. The family is in worse shape in terms of emotional, physical and financial status. With the loss of the bread winner, the family can only rely on donations, their future is jeopardies. Elizabeth is not only a widow, but now she must act as the bread winner to her family of four. 

To some, if not most of her neighbors, her loss is part of attaining better and safer streets- “Santo Niño residents say their streets are safer now. The drug-pushers and users who once plagued this area, and so many others like it, have been removed — jailed and are killed…(Philstar) In the Filipino slums these occurrences are part of daily life. 

The administration has no intentions of stopping its War on Drugs. It will last until the last day of the President's according to the president.  Not even the most well known public activist can stop the bloodshed. It is too late, for the president deems himself as the new Hitler. 

It may have seemed that the focus of the War on Drugs is simply to eliminate criminals, I beg to differ. Truly there must be an underlying agenda to this catastrophe. It seems the public officials and corruption are to be blame.  Many of the deaths on this War on Drugs case are not justified. The killers, are yet to be known. Mostly because they have been subjected to police brutality and are being covered up by the officials. Anybody can be killed, if there is slight suspicion of drug activity. Some are killed because of political, financial or personal reasons. There is leaked evidence that suggests the use of false and planted evidence against the alleged criminals. 

With the decreasing amount of poor people more land opens in the slum. Relocating the slum occupants is one of the few promises the President gave in his campaign. “I will move you, give me a year and I will relocate you… don’t worry there will not be demolition without relocation” he stated

The slum areas near Manila are of great economical and strategic value. Recentl foreign investors such as China have come. China, is known to have disputes with the Philippines over a few islands in the South China Sea. However, the relationship between the two countries is growing as multiple investment contractsand joint ventures have been signed by the two countries -contracts that involve industrialization and road work that affects the slums. Thus a land grabbing agenda that is hidden under the controversial drug war.

The Philippines is on the verge of being a complete dictatorship. The unconscionable violation of civil rights is alarming. The majority of Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters are being brainwashed by propaganda. It is time for the United Nations to act, to halt a fascist regime. There are 12 million Filipinos living in poverty, 12 million lives that are in great danger.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tongues of Conquest: A Powerful Address

This Blog Was Written By 
John Ribauldo

In his first address to the United Nations general assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump employed a variety of rhetorical approaches to advance the interests of American foreign policy. Although Trump campaigned on the idea that he speaks plainly and not to obscure truth― a quality he felt differentiates himself from other politicians― his language was equally as frustrating and steeped in assumptions. Using a rhetoric mastered by his political opponents and predecessors, President Trump is able to mask his administration’s agenda with the appearance of normalcy.

Most notably, the President uses specific terms of address to refer to other nations― particularly those under the immediate crosshairs of his foreign policy. Without mentioning either Iran or North Korea (DPRK) by name, in the third minute of the address, Trump references “rogue regimes” that “support terrorists and threaten their own people with the most destructive weapons known to man”. Being steeped in the rhetoric of today, we can infer that Iran and North Korea are the targets of this statement. 

Many nations, including some key partners to the United States, have murky connections to terrorist groups, yet when we hear President Trump speak about state-sponsored terrorism, we immediately think only of Iran. Likewise, despite the fact that several nations possess nuclear weapons (and that the US is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in combat), the association with “the most destructive weapons known to man” is firmly cemented onto both Iran and North Korea. Why is this? It’s all about those pesky terms of address!

Trump is able to make such strong references to the targets of his regime because the American mass media has associated the “boogie man”-like phrases with countries like Iran or North Korea. Trump is simply tapping into a reservoir of linguistic trickery that was assembled by such previous leaders as George Bush and Barack Obama. Trump continues to use these empty scare-words against other targets of US foreign policy: Syria is a tyrant’s dictatorship, Venezuela is a failed state, and Cuba is a rogue socialist nightmare.

Mass media has created easily accessible and shared terms for the international community to use when referencing other nations. This is a very useful tool for whoever gets to set these terms, because these terms’ implications can be immensely powerful and indicative of how international relations are conducted.

Not only do these terms of address set the narrative for how we discuss and think about countries unaligned with U.S. interests, but it also facilitates the exertion of power; i.e. when President Trump refers to North Korea as a rogue regime, he isn’t just referencing a country, he’s making a call to action. Speech acts are utterances that do something or accomplish a goal. By strongly condemning North Korea, President Trump is commanding his international constituents and junior partners to join him in the condemnation and ostracization of North Korea.

By subtly tapping into the wealth of established communicative practices that he inherited from presidents past, Mr. Trump is given a variety of ways through which his mere words could command attention, mobilize nations, and conquer the narrative.

In Defense of Mumble Rap: Dismissing Haters in the New Age of Poesy

This Blog Post Was Written By 
John Ribaudo 

2016 and 17 were― as most years are― exciting for hip-hop music, introducing us to countless new entries to the hip-hop canon and a host of new sounds. Of these new additions is the contentious category of “mumble rap”. The term was well characterized by Wiz Khalifa in reference to fellow artist, Desiigner, as an appraisal of Desiigner’s innovative lyricism and sound:
"We call it mumble rap. It ain't no disrespect to the lil homies, they don't want to rap. It's cool for now, it's going to evolve. Those artists, if they want to stay around, they'll figure out the next thing to do. But right now, that's what's poppin”.

Although mumble rap has been well received by millions of fans, it also has an (un)fair share of detractors. Many opponents to the sub-genre insinuate that mumble rap is childish, unskilled, and even disrespectful. Some of the new performers who belong to this new sub-genre have playful antics, and some may even fail to honor their legendary predecessors, but one critique of mumble rap which is just wrong is the insinuation that mumble rap is in any way a lack of musical or poetic talent.
For those unfamiliar with mumble rap, the name tells all: many mumble rap records feature lyrical delivery that is difficult to decipher at first, second, or third listen. The lyrics of Desiigner’s breakthrough hit “Panda” are most likely little-known by his fans or casual listeners alike. Even so, the song doesn’t fail at its goal to get people going. Some may attribute this hype to the song’s beat, and this is not to say that the production deserves no share of credit for the song’s intense energy, but the lyrical delivery is moreso key to the song’s success. Here, try it for yourself:
It’s easier to bounce with the beat than decipher the delivery, so, how does Desiigner command us so well with his verbals? The answer lies in defamiliarization, the practice of twisting language such that we can have a visceral understanding of it’s content, yet not be fully able to abstract and concretize its form or meaning (this is closely based off of Roman Jakobson’s definition of defamiliarization). Through his use of hard-to-comprehend delivery, Desiigner demands active listening. This is similar to the rhetorical practice of speaking lowly, a power-play sort of move that forces listeners to devote careful attention to the speaker. This delivery can also be heard on popular tracks like Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” and Playboi Carti’s “Magnolia”. This use of language engages listeners deeply. The charm to Desiigner’s delivery is not only in it’s meaningful decoherence; it is so closely fused to the song’s beat that it feels like an instrument of its own.
Another example of defamiliarization: a group also commonly described as “mumble rap”, Migos, uses a textbook definition example of defamiliarization in their popular track “Pipe It Up”. Without ever explicitly defining what it means to “pipe” something “up”, the Migos create a grandeur feeling of triumph, vitality, and lavishness; they use the language we do know to illustrate things we do not and take the words into directions not obvious for them to go in. And, just as with the three aforementioned tracks, “Pipe It Up” creates chaotic excitement, not despite but because of its incoherence.
It would be amiss to not recognize the many complex linguistic tools used by its artists to create complex and layered musical experiences. And while it may be true that some of these artists don’t pay full respects for their musical predecessors, I’d rather call mumble rap irreverent than irrelevant.

Before I wrote this, I read these:

Side notes: 1) The music videos for “Magnolia” and “XO Tour Llif3” resemble a visual form of defamiliarization. 2) If you like the video for “Magnolia”, I highly recommend the video of A$AP Ferg’s “Plain Jane”. Not relevant to this blog post, but still great. 3) Some of the lyrics in these songs are actually very clear and easy to hear. Maybe that makes us more curious to decipher the rest of them?