Reason #421 why I’m not a law student.

July 30, 2007

As if I needed more than one reason, I’ll consider it reason #421 why I’m not a law student: the endless torrents of painful detail-oriented studying.

On Friday morning (8:30 am sharp) I will (hopefully) be sitting down to my very last final of all time. By that I mean written, timed test.

If I pass it, it’ll be a truly sweet moment to be done with written tests in my academic career. I’m a paper-gal, let’s face it.

The course is basically in Israeli Arbitration Law. Not too bad of a subject, if it wasn’t for all the… law.

Wish me luck!

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Collective Memory and the 9th of Av.

July 24, 2007

Today, I’m – along with much of the Jewish community – observing the day of Jewish mourning, called Tisha Be’Av, which means the 9th day of the month of Av (on the Hebrew calendar).

It involves a hefty list of ritualistic abstention:

1. No eating or drinking

2. No application of creams, lotions, etc.

3. No wearing leather

4. No washing or bathing

5. No sexual relations

The point is to mourn in memory of a host of tragedies occurring on this date throughout Jewish history, most noted (and the first) of which are the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

The day is taken seriously in modern-day Jerusalem, where there are laws keeping shops and commercial establishments closed.

To me, this day is the perfect example of all collective memory efforts I can think of. The Jewish people has been remembering this day and observing its rituals for thousands of years. We read accounts of what happened throughout the day. We act as mourners act.

I strongly feel that collective memory is what has kept the Jewish people alive all these years, homeless as we have been.

It’s possible that the study of collective memory in conflict will be where my thesis begins…


Harry Potter and the Philosophy of Choice.

July 18, 2007

What kind of Harry Potter fan would I be, if on the eve of the finale’s release, I did not bring some Dumbledore philosophy to the discussion?

At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (book 6), we are taught by Dumbledore of the power of the ultimate choice: We are all 100% responsible for the way we choose to view our lives. We’re not always responsible for our luck, for the outcomes, for what happens to us, but we make choices as best as we can, and from there on, the ultimate choice we can make is how we view our situations: with optimism, with skepticism, through positive or negative outlooks.

What is perhaps the book’s – if not the series’ – philosophical climax, this idea ties in to the ultimate fight that Harry will have to face: He and Voldemort are embraced in a battle where only one will remain alive; for while they are both alive, neither can rest. Harry has learned this from a prophecy realized to him in book 5 (841):

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal… And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…”

Harry has trouble understanding the concept; he believes he does not have the kind of power it would take to defeat his foe. Dumbledore explains further (book 6, 476):

“…Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so… Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be more dangerous to him – and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him!

The power of choice; the responsibility of our outlooks. We choose to look at our conflicts the way we do. We formulate our own futures with every second we live in the present. We create our conflicts and we can create our resolutions. We can view our situations as miserable and feel stuck and negative. Or, we can view our situations within a totally different light – and in creating that point of view for ourselves, we are opening ourselves up to solutions.

As Dumbledore continues (476):

“If Voldemort had never heard the prophecy… would it have meant anything? If Voldemort had never murdered your father, would he have imparted in you a furious desire for revenge? …If he had not forced your mother to die for you, would he have given you a magical protection he could not penetrate? …Don’t you see? Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do!”

And perhaps, a clearer analogy from the greatest wizard for us Muggles – er, humans (477):

“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realise that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!”

Dumbledore continues by pressing Harry; he gets Harry to admit that if he had heard this dooming prophecy or not, it didn’t matter, he still would have gone off to destroy Voldemort. Harry does not have to feel dictated by a prophecy, the way Voldemort had. Voldemort doomed himself to the prophecy and created the situation where Harry would feel the need to destroy him (479):

“…in other words, you are free to choose your way, quite free to turn your back on the prophecy…”

Harry does understand in the end. As he thinks to himself after hearing Dumbledore’s explanations (479):

It was… the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but [some people] knew… that there was all the difference in the world.”

That’s a heavy lesson for children’s literature… But wouldn’t the world be so different if we all taught Dumbledore’s ‘philosophy of choice’ to our children at an early age?


Movie review: In the Name of the Father

July 17, 2007

A few nights ago I watched the 1993 drama, In the Name of the Father, which tells the unfortunate story of the Guildford Four, four Irish friends who were in London when themovie poster IRA set off a bomb in a local pub in 1975 that killed five British and maimed more. They were tortured into confessing to the crime, wrongly accused of the bombing and sentenced to life in prison. Even when members of the IRA later confessed to the bombing and declared the innocence of the Guildford Four (and the Maguire Seven, also convicted in the case), the British authorities were loathe to admit their mistakes at the cost of their reputations. Finally, with the help of a British detective, they received a second chance in court and their crimes and case were dismissed by the courts in 1987. No one was punished, however, amongst the British officials unofficially deemed responsible.

As an American-Israeli watching this movie in 2007, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Guantanamo Bay on one hand and the ‘matzav’ in Israel on the other. The case of the Guildford Four happened at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland; I feel that the past 7 years have been enough trouble for America, and they are only getting worse. I found the opening seen, a street riot between Belfast residents and the British Army to be reminiscent of the Palestinian Intifada.

Art imitates life; life imitates art. Either way, violent conflict is all around us at all times. No matter how much art tries to serve as mirror – reflecting humanity – it is still only regarded by humans as mere art; and life, no matter how conflicted, must carry on.


WMF 2007: Can I come?

July 11, 2007

wmf

The 2007 International Conference to the World Mediation Forum is being held this October in Jerusalem. Not only is that really, really close to home, for me it is home. Which means not only do I have this great opportunity to attend this international mediators’ event, but I can also do it for a lot cheaper than it would be to fly somewhere distant and foreign.

Considering how lacking I’m feeling in my academic course, I think this is a great chance for me to learn, meet and network with mediators from around the world. In other words: a practical, hands-on education.

That said, the entry fee is $500 and attending would mean three vacation days from work. If I’m going to go, it’ll have to be via scholarship (which my university and the conference are not offering).

Any thoughts out there? Any charitable organizations looking to sponsor a young Israeli/American student/mediator-to-be at WMF 2007?


Mediation, where art thou?

July 9, 2007

Sigh. Mediation has never seemed so far away for me. I recognize I’m sounding dramatic, but, well… I guess I’m just not getting along with the program I’m enrolled in (despite it being year #2). I’m not the only one; most, if not all, students in the program are really unsatisfied (and that is a severe understatement).

I’m just not feeling support from the direction of my faculty, my professors. I always assumed professors were supposed to be beacons of intellect and inspiration; at least, they were during my Bachelors process.

The biggest danger here is not of me dropping out of school and not finishing the degree. The biggest danger is that in practice, I like my day job a lot more than my formal studies. I never thought it would happen that way, but here I am, thoroughly enjoying my job (internet marketing for a fair-sized website) and thoroughly despising my university.

The negative karma has totally thrown me off, and I’m way behind in choosing a thesis topic (for now, it’s something to do with the role of collective memory in protracted conflict). I’ve never been way behind in anything in my life, but here I am, feeling alone in my studies and very uninspired.

Sorry about all the negativity. I have been taking steps to take a turn – like seeking my own informal means of study online, through conferences, observations. I guess I was hoping getting all this out in writing would push me to work harder, with more vigor and positive energy… Starting tomorrow?