Can we be more than the sum of our parts?

By Micaela Delfino

John Locke, English philosopher and physician, had the theory that the individuals in a society truly want to live together, in harmony, without any type of aggression. Moreover, he said that “every man has a property in his own person” and that the individual “has a right to decide what would become of himself and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did”.[1][2]

Charles Horton Cooley, an American sociologist, believed that identities are formed from interactions, so that the more interactions one has, the more choices they have to form their own identity[3]. More often than not, our parents shelter us from some parts of society that they are unfamiliar with, thinking they are protecting us.

We are not born limitless. We are born in one country to a family of certain characteristics, speak a certain language, and are probably introduced to a certain religion. Until we grow up and meet new people, that is our comfort zone, where we can develop our interests, our talents and share our beliefs in a safe place, with a known manner, conduct, and maybe, also a known response. Our self-image, now more than ever, is shaped by society. We behave like what we believe the others think we are. Rather than just being, we spend some time figuring out how the other perceives us and, with that in mind, we choose what to show about ourselves.

In college, some of us have the chance to be exposed to different groups of people and their ideas, which may differ from our own, and that is truly great. Otherwise, we would risk creating one-sided identities and opinions of ourselves and others.

Social interactions are, in a way, a learning process. We learn from others while they learn from us, we take in what we like from them and they sometimes challenge our opinions, so as to help us forming our ideas and finding true meaning.

Our identity is ever flowing; we are not permanent beings. Heraclitus of Ephesus is known to have said that “ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers”, because “all entities move and nothing remains the same”. However, unlike water, we have the capacity to channel the direction of our development. We have the capacity to shape ourselves. The so-called “true self” is not there for us to, one day, magically find but rather to create it. You both discover what you like and you create it because we have the power to shape our identity, who we are.

One can learn about so many things and sometimes we try to surround ourselves with what we already know we like, so as to be at ease and comfortable but I don’t think we should. We should try and experience as much as possible, reach to other sources of knowledge, even though we might be unfamiliar with them, and grasp whatever works for us and our field of study to enrich our perception. It is not enough to know about one thing. We have to learn from different sources and take on a much broader approach to everything, to truly try to understand the reality we live in and make the most of our future.

Nowadays, we get caught up in labeling every single thing we do, from the colors we like to the food we prefer eating, to the relationship we are in. Gradually, with globalization, this has been changing. Globalization according to Martin Albrow and Elizabeth King is the “process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture”[4]. Personally, I consider it made us change the way we think about personal relationships, international relations, commercial exchanges and also political ideology and geography.

The international or globalized culture is homogeneous. At the same time, it brings us together and creates a sort of belonging while, in some cases, it broadens our sense of nationalism because it disorientates us, drawing us away from the culture we were born into, increasing fear.

Our identity can be challenged by some factors, for example: discrimination. I consider that it should not be accepted in any form in any country. There are some groups that face compounded forms of discrimination due to factors such as their race or ethnicity, religion, disability or socio-economic status, and this should not be tolerated and is in fact one of the most common topics inside the human rights discussion.

Another important factor that also shapes our identity, is gender. I believe there should not be a difference between salaries for the same work, economic and social discrimination, gender-based violence or laws and policies prohibiting women from equal access to land, property, and housing. Moreover, women should not be afraid to develop in society, to have the career they wish to have, to go out at night alone: they should not be afraid to just be women. This is something we have to accomplish together –all of the states– to ensure a better life both for women and men. To effectively ensure women’s rights we have to understand the social structures and power relations that frame not only laws and politics but also the economy, social dynamics and family and community life.[5]

We should not look at ourselves as defined beings in a society that is constantly changing and rediscovering itself while we, as citizens of our country and the world, experience the same thing. We are not simple, we are complex. We are formed by everything that happened to us, every experience we had, our mother tongue and the other languages we speak, our nationalities, our gender, race and ethnicity, our education, religion or lack thereof and everything that surrounds us: our socio-economic, legal and political, territorial reality as we know it, our relationship with our friends, family and the people we meet along the way and their experiences, opinions and beliefs, and we might not get to know every other thing that shapes us and ultimately makes us who we are, and that is okay.

It is said that we are the sum of our parts, and while that in a way may be true, we have an essence that is separated from the parts and its sum, which is not ever-changing but rather constant, it is a permanent entity that does not flaunt.

I believe that we can work together well for social purposes. Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. The term comes from the Attic Greek word συνεργία, meaning “working together”. Our action, our result, and our impact can be much greater if we work together, coming from different backgrounds, diverse cultures, and fields of study: We can achieve a lot more when we decide to cooperate and enrich one another and our objectives rather than acting on our own, isolated.

We have a shared purpose: making this world a little better, every day, with every action and decision we make, and despite our differences, we have to work together to ensure that that goal is achieved, for it is the only way we can make it happen.

[1] Olsaretti, Serena. 2004. Liberty, Desert and the Market. Cambridge University Press. p. 91

[2] Dan-Cohen, Meir. 2002. Harmful Thoughts: Essays on Law, Self, and Morality. Princeton University Press. p. 296

[3] Cooley, Charles Horton. (1902) Human Nature and the Social Order, New York: Scribner’s, pp. 152

[4] Albrow, Martin and Elizabeth King (eds.) (1990). Globalization, Knowledge and Society London

[5] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WRGS/Pages/WRGSIndex.aspx

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Do we live in a borderless world?

By Micaela Delfino

There were approximately one hundred countries in the world in 1945 and more than fifty countries were formed after the Cold War. Nonetheless, I believe that this fragmented world will start to defragment as it has done over the past years.

The European Union, formed by the Treaty of Rome in 1958 is a political and economic union of 28 sovereign states which covers an area of 4,324,782 km2, with an estimated population of over 508 million. Member states have ceded its sovereignty for it to operate through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making.

At first, some European states –known as the Inner Six– gave birth to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC). Nowadays, we have 28 member states forming this union and since the Maastricht Treaty (1993) it was established its current name and introduced European citizenship. Presently, the EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states.

A lot of people are drawn by the high standards of living (wealth, comfort, material goods and necessities) several of the member states enjoy: a longer life expectancy at birth, a longer education period and a higher income per capita.

On October 3rd 2013 a boat carrying migrants from Eritrea, Somalia, Ghana and Libya sailed from Misrata to Italy and sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. There were 155 survivors and more than 360 deaths.[1]

Lampedusa is a much chosen destination because it represents the nearest entry to Europe for many of the migrants of northeastern African countries.

Nowadays, tragic events like this one continue to happen. The EU Agency Frontex (from French: Frontières extérieures) provides statistic data of the last few years that show a large increase of sea border African immigrants that arrive to European borders, raising an alarming number of 220.194 in 2014, compared to a 60.173 in 2013, which can be translated to an increase of 265%:

FRONTEX

We can see that language does not represent a barrier these days. Gradually, it has become easier and easier to learn many languages due to the evolution of technology and the use our race has given to it. English, for example, has become the universal language with more than one billion speakers all over the world, and is the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin and Spanish[2]. Mandarin native speakers are 960 million as of 2010.[3]

Globalization according to Martin Albrow and Elizabeth King is the “process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture”.[4] Personally, I consider it can make us change the way we think about personal relationships, international relations, commercial exchanges and also political ideology and geography.

We live in a world that is constantly and non-stop more connected. The Internet has been a major factor in telecommunication. In the past, we could not have thought possible a way that could provide us instant communication and now it has become something so normal and mundane we probably do not conceive we could live without it.

Science has also played a very important role in our globalized era for many factors, one of them is helping us overcome diseases, which has increased the life expectancy at birth which is of, for example, in Spain 86 years old for females and 80 years old for males, making an overall of 83 years old, the second higher life expectancy in the world, after Japan’s.

However the many changes globalization has brought, one thing remains the same: we do not live in a borderless world. We need borders because then we can establish legal regimes and forms of government within those borders, that are probably not the same in every country but they are necessary to insure rights and responsibilities, often differentiated between citizens and non-citizens. The Preamble of the United States established its Constitution with the objectives of forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for common defense, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.[5]

As opposed to the United States Preamble, Argentina assures the blessings of liberty to all the men in the world that wish to live in the country[6]. This englobes the concept of human dignity binding both society and the State to create the certain and real possibility that the individual that wishes to enter the country develops fully its personality and rights.

There are a lot of agreements between nations that insure cooperation that entails both advantages and responsibilities to both ends but overall it represents chances that the State offers to its citizens and also, in some cases, non-citizens to benefit from more possibilities or rights.

More and more we see double degrees and bilateral agreements between universities of different countries that promote a more international education, englobing perhaps different cultures, systems of thought, knowledge and points of view, which make the alumni global citizens able to develop in two professional worlds. These “global citizens” acquire the competences required to work in different scopes and can be inserted in diverse cultures and are more inclined to understand or analyze the international system.

International law now recognizes certain human rights that should be promoted, respected and veiled upon in all nations at an international, regional and domestic level. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a UN General Assembly declaration that, while non-binding, is an authoritative international human rights law that has provided the basis for following international human rights instruments.

I consider that discrimination should not be accepted in any form in any country. There are some groups that face compounded forms of discrimination due to factors such as their race or ethnicity, disability or socio-economic status. This should not be tolerated and is in fact one of the most common topics inside the human rights discussion.

A very important issue is gender inequality. I believe there should not be a difference between salaries for the same work, economic and social discrimination, gender-based violence or laws and policies prohibiting women from equal access to land, property and housing. This is something we have to accomplish together –all of the states– to ensure a better life both for women and men. To effectively ensure women’s rights we have to understand the social structures and power relations that frame not only laws and politics but also the economy, social dynamics and family and community life.[7]

To conclude, I believe that, little by little, the human race is working towards a better way of living that is more connected, related and valuable as well for its members, so that we can later say that we are trying to inhabit the world for ourselves and our posterity, so that they may enjoy the same state of the world as we have and perhaps an even greater one, more evolved, more equal and right where they can be the best version of themselves.

[1] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/04/witness-boat-migrants-used-bottles-to-stay-afloat/2922215/

[2] http://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/size

[3]  “Världens 100 största språk 2010” (The World’s 100 Largest Languages in 2010), in Nationalencyklopedin, Suecia.

[4] Albrow, Martin and Elizabeth King (eds.) (1990). Globalization, Knowledge and Society London

[5] https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble

[6] http://www.me.gov.ar/efeme/diaconstitucion/actual.html

[7] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WRGS/Pages/WRGSIndex.aspx

The Judicial Branch in the U.S.

By Micaela Delfino

As Yale Law Professor Akhil Reed Amar most accurately points out, American history is key to understanding the Constitution, and in this case, the Constitution is a reflection of the American Revolution.

Congress will have the power to tax and regulate, it is going to be much more representative than the Congress in the Articles of Confederation, because that was the goal of the Revolution: no taxation without representation. The Executive Branch, who will have no ruling king but instead a presidency that has some virtues of the English monarchy, like its stability in foreign affairs, a strong military leadership and national security but with democratic elections, impeachment and checks and balances.

Section I, Article III of the Constitution, establishes that the judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish and it shall extend to all classes, in law and equity. The trial of all crimes, except in case of impeachment, shall be by jury, and such trial shall be held in the state where said crime has been committed, but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed. The article continues to guarantee that every person accused of wrongdoing will have the right to a fair trial before a competent judge and a jury of one’s peers.

However, the Judicial -that started out as the last branch-, has gained power over time for one simple, yet quite complicated reason: politics.  Presidents and Congress sought from inception justices that would enforce a political order or point of view. One prominent example, Professor Amar mentions the pro-slavery nature of the Constitution, and the manner in which southern states exercised political power to protect slavery.

The power of this branch grew over time as individuals such as Marshall and Hamilton interpreted the power of the Judicial Branch to review the constitutionality of the laws made by Congress. History shows that initially the Judicial branch begun with questionable power in comparison to the other branches but in time its power grew to insure the democracy, national security, and pro-slavery tendencies of the early government.

Times have changed since the American Revolution and so has the distribution of power between the three branches, which had to metamorphose to adapt to these modern times. And it had to do so because if not, the system of checks and balances might have been unbalanced. Following that scenario, the first two branches -often the Executive, as it was for Argentina’s 12-year-experience-, would be able to behave unconstitutionally with no opposing power to control or stop them, as we can observe in numerous other nations around the globe.

Nonetheless, the question remains, “Should the judges have this increasing power?” and the answer has to do with accountability. Every branch of government can be more or less held accountable for what it does, but is the Judicial branch under the same accountability as the Legislative and the Executive branch?

Democracy and national security in the U.S. Constitution

By Micaela Delfino

As opposed to other democratic texts of its time, the Framers of the Constitution made sure that the People of the United States were in charge of the Nation, that the People were the source of authority, whilst forming a more perfect Union, establishing Justice, insuring domestic Tranquility, providing for common defense, promoting the general Welfare and securing the benefits of Liberty to themselves and their Posterity, setting up a Supreme Law that would ensure these rights to all: these were the intentions of the Framers. Moreover, Yale law Professor Akhil Reed Amar emphasizes that the American Constitution is not only a text but a deed, a doing, “a constituting, an act of ordainment and establishment” because no one had seen before thirteen previously independent states forming this kind of indivisible union, making it the world’s largest corporate merger. Never before had this large number of citizens been privileged with the guarantee of freedom, both corporal and of speech, and of choosing the defense they wanted and needed to keep and perfect this Union.

The Constitution’s text and structure indicate that the Framers were concerned with national security, as it is one of the things that first appears, in the Preamble, by the ideals of “insuring domestic Tranquility” and “providing for common defence”. Additionally, to prevent a concentration of power that could eventually endanger the Nation’s security, the Framers divided the central government into three branches and created a system of checks and balances in which each of the three branches —legislative, executive and judicial— “checks” one another to make sure that the governmental powers are not concentrated in the hands of one (any) single branch.

There is a clear link between national security and democracy. For example, in a military context, women couldn’t bear arms, and so they didn’t vote at the founding, but this was quite common. Women didn’t vote in Athens, pre-Imperial Rome or Britain. However, this was not the case with some unpropertied people in the early United States. If certain people didn’t own any property but still they had fought for the American Revolution at the time, they got a vote on the American Constitution because of their loyalty to the Nation.

Article I, Section 8, outlines the powers of Congress, the “first branch” of the government, that are directly related to national security concerns: raising armies, declaring war, providing for a navy, establishing the rules for the American military, and if necessary, converting militias of the states into national service.

Article IV, Section 4, establishes that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence”. This section regarding national security insures a guarantee to the People and to every State that, should it be held and accomplished, democracy would reign and these concepts, democracy and national security, would be tied up, fit together and would be compatible.

Abraham Lincoln, I believe, explains the equal importance of the union of the democracy with the national security by stating that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. To succeed, the United States of America needs both national security and a democratic form of government that insures everything the Constitution stands for.

How does the nature of each party’s coalition explain the positions that each party’s lawmakers take on policy issues?

By Micaela Delfino

Coalitions, with the ideal to form a more perfect Union, often share the same interests, as it was since the 1930s organized labor for the Democratic Party coalition. The Democratic Party has promoted a center-left, social-liberal platform that supports social justice and a mixed economy. However, the Republican coalition (usually, like most parties within two-party systems, divided on social and political-economic ideology) goes around American conservatism such as respect for American traditions, the rule of law, Judeo-Christian values, anti-Communism, defense of Western civilization from the so-called threats posed by moral relativism, multiculturalism and post-modern ridicule of traditional culture.

Fiscal conservatives call for a large reduction in government spending while democrats support a more progressive tax structure to provide more services and reduce economic inequality, with the wealthiest of the people paying the highest amount in taxes.

Social conservatives are those who support traditional values and are usually opposed to homosexuality and abortion. Instead, democrats tend to be more tolerant of these topics because they may disagree with biblical literalism or they prioritize social justice and other issues over social ones.

Compared to conservatives, democrats generally have advocated fair trade and a less militaristic foreign policy and have been keener in pushing for civil liberties.

What is the major strength of the Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy and the Supreme Court?

By Micaela Delfino

Personally, I think the major strength of the Congress, which was established as the “first branch” of government, is the opportunity each state or district has of being represented. This surely marked a great difference between the democratic and the monarchy form of government, where the sovereignty is actually or nominally embodied in one or various individual(s) reigning until death or abdication. Congress, instead, represents U.S. citizens and has the power to make the Nation’s laws, declare war, raise and provide public money and oversee its proper expenditure, impeach and try federal officers, approve presidential appointments, approve treaties negotiated by the executive branch, among other faculties.[1]

The President, directly or indirectly chosen the People, holds the executive power[2] and has the ability to get his/her policy initiatives enacted into law as long as Congress is willing to respond favorably. However, there is an exception to this process: executive orders. The executive orders are issued by the President through his/hers constitutional authority as chief executive. This, I believe, could be beneficial to the nation in some cases where the President, democratically elected, wants to pass a certain policy avoiding public debate and opposition.

The federal bureaucracy protects the environment, collects revenue to regulate the economy, promotes and protects their programs and have the resources needed to succeed. In spite of not having a constitutional authority of its own, It operates with a significant amount of autonomy implementing policy decisions.

Lastly, the Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution. Article III of the Supreme Law establishes the federal judiciary and defines its authority as it states the Supreme Court holds the judicial power of the U.S. and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. It is most praised by its status as an independent and co-equal branch of the government, as the Nation’s system often leads to constitutional disputes.

[1] The U.S. Constitution, Article I.

[2] The U.S. Constitution, Article II.

How the U.S. Constitution provides for a “government of laws”? Which is the feature of the Constitution most important in providing for such?

By Micaela Delfino

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. The Constitution represents everything the country wanted to and still stands for. At first beginning with just 7 articles and an amiable way of getting through with the language, the Constitution made sure everyone could be able to read it and comprehend quite quickly the purposes of the national frame of government.

The Constitution, provides for a government of laws, starting with its Preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Preamble is of great importance to understand the frame of mind the Founding Fathers’ had when implementing the supreme law, their intentions regarding its meaning and hopes.

The phrase “a government of laws, not of men” can be routed back to John Adams[1], one of the Founding Fathers’ and the second president of the U.S., when he described the ideal form of government. I believe it stands for the objectivity of interpretation, a government for all, not a government for some, one that is applicable to every individual without regard of their education, profession or position. A government of men would be subjective, and a government that treats some people differently than others is a system that just can’t lead to justice.

Therefore, the Preamble designs what are the intentions of the United States of America when formed and what they continue to be, after more than two hundred years later, today.

[1] “A government of laws, not of men” is how John Adams described the ideal form of government. The Constitution of the United States was designed to create such a government.