Reflexive Thinking: Thoughts on Media, Ukraine, and the World

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What is peace – if it is manufactured from a process such as this? Image by sideshowmom.

There is no denying the importance of a people informed, and open discussions about global issues. National leaders often do this exact thing.

When countries take on an approach like this – having their own discussions, be it amongst themselves or in collaboration with peers – is when the word “discussion” transforms.

No longer is it a discussion; it is a business meeting. A meeting intended to devise a plan and agreement in order for each member to achieve some desired goal.

With regard to Ukraine, this “discussion” has traveled miles across land and sea between Russia and the US. The discussion between Obama and Putin became global, with countless international media sources facilitating the talks.

It seems as if a global protocol such as this occurs whenever and wherever a global crises arises, often without the country that is the topic of discussion present.

Reflexive Thinking and Habitus

Anthropology stresses the importance of being reflexive; thinking about one’s thinking. The act of being reflexive means that you are acknowledging the effect that your position in the world – economically, socially, culturally, geographically, and so on – has on yourself. It is a reflection on the past and current situations and conditions that have brought you here and molded you and your mind. It is a reflection on the way you think and why you think in this way.

Pierre Bourdieu is one who facilitates an understanding of reflexive thinking with his term “habitus.” To paraphrase from his work “Structures, Habitus, Practices,” Bourdieu states that habitus is produced by the circumstances associated with a particular class of conditions.

Habitus is a disposition and a set of principles which generate and organize one’s practice. Practice can be interpreted to mean the way in which we carry out or perform habitually and regularly in daily life, in other words how we respond to life… how we live.

Habitus places an importance on one’s history as it is/ we are “embodied history;” history which has been internalized as forgotten history thus inhabiting our unconscious and guiding our actions.

Why is habitus important? Being reflexive and aware of your habitus is important for everyday life and in learning. Reflecting on your opinions and why you hold them is an enlightening process for it connects you to your many realities. Being reflexive enables you to deconstruct prejudices that you may or may not have realized you had; it creates a free and open-mind. When researching information, it is crucial to realize the chance of a person’s habitus affecting the overall message and position of their work.

There is also a chance of your habitus influencing your research and thought process. Realizing your own habitus allows one to acknolwledge and understand the existence of the habitus of another. It is especially important to hone in on the skill of removing the political influence of one’s home country from one’s thought process. It is necessary to understand its participation in the forming of your habitus, but as you realize this, you can properly stock it within your mind and prevent it from influencing your future practice.

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What makes up your habitus? Image by clarita.

How Western Habitus can Influence the Masses

The nature of the interconnectedness of the world has made things complicated. US history and the choices of its government have brought the country to a position of aide, opposition, defense; the ‘jack-of-all-trades master-of-none’ expression is one that comes to mind.

Yet questions of what, who, and how, have become corrupted. The consequences of relationships – especially dependability – between the US and other countries is one that is ever apparent, but is the extent to which people are in need of help more important to consider during times of strife?

This discussion is cyclical; the fact that it is so, is an effect of colonialism. This is the habitus of the US government; it too, crafts its present and future with a disposition modeled of past choices and history.

The media is not created equal. News outlets are created to attract viewers, in the hopes of gaining an audience it can influence. Many US newscasters, actors/actresses, reporters, or journalists who appear on US programming, addressing the American public, have an obligation to portray the US in the right light to its people.

Mainstream news isn’t just news. There is always an angle, always a reason for what becomes “news” and what does not. There have now been countless words said about the situation in Ukraine and Crimea across multiple media outlets.

Sides have been taken and much attention given to either the US or Russia, apparently the key bodies in this situation.

Thoughts on Ukraine

Rather than circulate an analysis of a situation with an outside lens, this article aims to learn from within. Dania Lawro is the current President of the NYC Ukranian American Youth Association. This interview took place on April 5th, 2014 at their location in the East Village.

Lawro states that the protests were started by students. These students disagreed with the government’s decision of not signing agreements to join the European Union. She states that majority of people in Ukraine, the youth, believe that there would be little to no democracy for the country if its ties to Russia strengthened.

Protesters flooded Maidan, the central square of Kiev, capital of Ukraine, to voice their objections to the government’s decision. These protests were peaceful and only became violent when the Berkut riot police were sent in forming blockades and attacking protesters.

Lawro cites the violence as an example of the government turning on its people. Since the beginning of the protests, many people have gone missing, and Russia brought in snipers, among other military representations. Viktor Yanukovych asked Russia’s president Valdimir Putin to get involved. Earlier this month Yanukovych stated he regrets this action.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kiev, Ukraine. Image by shannontanski.

Lawro points out that in Crimea, the majority of its population, the Crimean Tatars, did not vote in the referendum that took place on March 16th; many fled to neighboring countries.

Lawro reveals that there is a small percentage of Russians who live in Ukraine. Russian influence and the use of its language remains due to its history. Multiple wars and the presence of Nazi Germany left the land and its people under psychological and physical distress. Ukraine has only gained more control over its country in the last twenty years.

Lawro believes that Yanukovych’s decision was a wake-up moment for Ukrainian people. It sparked a reflection on what it means to them, to be Ukrainian. Due to the situation, there has also been increased interest in the Ukraine culture and language.

This decision also revealed the true corrupt nature of the government. With the Ukrainian government being in control of all media outlets, Lawro states she is unable to imagine living in a country where this is the case. She believes the following: the current government needs to put pressure on Russia to get out of Ukraine; the US should have gotten involved earlier, but should now assist Ukraine by all means (financially, sanctions, etc.); and finally that the EU should be protecting Ukraine.

Lawro hopes for peace for Ukraine; she envisions a strong economy and a country that values its human dignity and its multiculturalism – which she compares to the US and Canada. She hopes Ukraine will become a beacon of hope, as those who emigrate from their home countries view the US. She believes that Ukraine could seamlessly fit within the EU, not just as a socialist country but as a model of democracy.

Google Search: “Ukraine”

By now, many months have passed since the beginning of the Ukraine protests. If one Googles “Ukraine,” some of the main topics that result, as of April 24, 2014, are troops, military, Russia, US, and attacks. CNN, BBC, RT, Reuters, Fox News, NY Times, Wall St. Journal, USA Today, CBC News, and TIME result as the main news outlets of this, the most popular search engine. Mainstream media appears uninterested in hearing the voice of the people – only paying attention to themes that are newsworthy, many of which relate to violence, defense, and taking sides.

Ukraine Protests and the People

The fact of the matter is that the people- citizens of a country, people of a nation- do not unite and protest together unless their current circumstances leave them no choice. The protests in Ukraine began, like many of this nature do, because the people felt that their government was not acting in their best interest. This should be the topic of discussion. Governments are not providing for or representing their people adequately; the people are not being heard. They are not being considered. This is happening all over the world. All the time.

Oppression comes into existence when there is an uneven balance of power. It is no question that a global imbalance of power exists. Ask yourself this question, who or what are the world’s most politically, economically, and socially powerful ?

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Is your government oppressive? Image by Alvimann

If you begin to list names, you know it exists. If you begin to list countries, you know it exists. If you begin to list governmental entities, corporations, banks, etc., you are aware of the problem.

Connect these entities to their history. Connect them to each other. Investigate; you will come to understand the reasons why the world system operates as it does today.

Getting Involved to Get Control

Whenever and wherever a crisis arises, global leaders are the first to act. Generally, any involvement is deemed necessary – little or a lot, violent or non-violent, effective or damaging. Regardless, nations become involved due to the type of advantages their involvement can bring.

It is frustrating to see countries like the US get physically involved in matters outside of their borders because they believe their opinion is better. It is frustrating to know that global powers, both country and entity, are still obsessively concerned with having worldwide power and influence. In reality, these powers are the source of many international problems that they later try to solve themselves.

Again, this discussion is cyclical; the fact that it is so, is another negative effect of colonialism.

Unequal Power, Unequal World

The state of the world today does not allow for every person to exercise their power. The state of the world today caters to sides. Until those who hold the most power grasp the fact that we are all on the same side, humans all over the Earth will continue to be oppressed.

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