I am Austin Dillon and I’m thrilled to be working with the Peace Economy Project. I’ve always been passionate about national defense and human rights, two causes that have been close to my heart, even as a kid. I can remember living in the UK and listening to BBC reports on cluster mines during the first Gulf War, asking my mom why wars hurt so many innocent people. I was five years old and I don’t think I was satisfied with her answer, because I’ve been looking for one ever since. After finishing high school in Texas I decided to go across the country and study government at Dartmouth College, where I dove head first into the history of war, women’s rights, and domestic and international politics. I thought surely if I read enough books and submerged myself in political theory, I would find a reason for the pointless casualties of war. My sophomore year I interned on the Hill, working for Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform as a speechwriter and researcher. The next year I went back to D.C. to work at the Brookings Institute as a research assistant for Tom Mann and Steve Hess. All four years, whether I was writing a paper for class or interviewing subjects for an internship, my original question, the animus to my search, loomed in the back of mind. Inevitably, it seems, I was drawn to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a shinning example of innocents in the grip of war. My senior thesis explored the impact of Israeli settlements on the peace process and more specifically the influence they wield within the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Last fall I graduated and I have to say that after studying the theories (realism, institutionalism, prisoner’s dilemma, constructivism, etc.), participating in the policy machine and the think-tanks that critique them, and researching the actual cases I have no answer for my five year old self. There is no reason for the casualties of war and I hope to make that clear during my time at PEP.
Archive for December, 2010
”Ujamaa” and “Umoja” in KiSwahili mean “Cooperative Economics” and “Unity” respectively. They are Kwanzaa principles I feel this capitalist system needs to use; especially in these economic times. If indeed we did use them, we could probably lessen the impact of this economic crisis.
Being sixteen I’m looking into finding a job and I’ve become more aware of what the economic crisis is really about. I’ve come to realize that jobs that are usually available for people my age are sparse. More adults out of work are seeking jobs at places like fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and other places where teenagers usually work. This forces teens like me to compete more for jobs or to seek work in other places. Ujamaa or cooperative economics means basically local people coming together to control the economics of their community. For example, if there were more locally owned stores and markets the community would be more sustainable. We would have to rely less on big corporations to distribute jobs and income to our communities. Instead our communities would be creating its own jobs.
Umoja, meaning unity has had positive effects in the crisis where families have been brought together and this is a small but very (in my eyes) significant and needed change. Recently my brother and I moved in with our god mother in order to go to better schools. Our home schools were located in the inner city where the economic crisis has devastated the schools. Schools have closed, bus routes have been cut and teacher cut backs have lead to schools were class sizes are enormous and students have to be at bus stops before sunrise in order for fewer buses to make more stops
Not only have I become more aware of my own personal finances, I’ve become aware of the finances of my household and the issues caused by this crisis. We’ve made numerous changes to our lifestyle including limiting the number of times we eat out each week. As a household we have to pay more attention to the amount of electricity, gas and water we use. This means shorter showers and lower temperatures inside therefore we are forced to put on more clothes while in the house. In my experience people have become more mindful of others, less wasteful, more “green” and in my case, more insightful. This is beneficial to our community! Along with these positive effects, there have been negative effects such as the job search has become more “dog eat dog”.
Instead of depending on those outside of ourselves and embattling in fierce competition with each other we need to embrace the Kwanzaa principles of “Ujamaa” and “Umoja”. We can be innovative and united to help each other out of this crisis caused by corporate greed that has left our homes and communities devastated.
There will always be doubts, questions, and controversies about the future. We have seen today, but we don’t know about tomorrow. Until recently, I had no need to ever really internalize this old adage, but today it speaks volumes about the changes I have had to endure during this economic crisis. I have made a plethora of sacrifices and I’m only 12 years old. For starters, I have stopped begging for video games, toys, and other stuff… because we just can’t afford them. My family is struggling to pay the bills, and buy medicine, groceries, and other necessities. We shop at resale stores and are more conscience about how we spend our money. In order to make a little extra cash, I cut lawns in my spare time. My mom is resourceful, to avoid starving, we grew peppers and we eat white potatoes smothered in onions and peppers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I pray the economy will get better so we can once again add some meat to our menu!
This economic crisis has affected my education as well. Paper and pencils are rationed out, field trips are out of the question, and we have no updated technology to speak of even though my school’s area of emphasis is Math, Science, and Technology. To compound matters, our School Board has instituted what’s known as furlough days. Each furlough day means we miss a day of school. Now, how will we learn anything when the school doors are closed? It’s been long, hard weeks for everyone, but my mom, who is a public school educator has been especially burdened due to mandatory furlough days. She is still responsible for taking care of our home and family whether the paycheck reflects nine or ten days. She is infuriated by the implication that our house could be foreclosed on if she loses her job, a home we so passionately love. With the recent budget cuts it is not unreasonable to speculate about such possibilities. I think about these issues and wonder if the people in charge really know what they are doing.
Our savings has been depleted and my hopes of having adequate resources for my education are becoming dangerously frayed. There is a lesson to be learned here…appreciate what’s really important…family and friends. This is equally true with regard to future employment. There is a fear that no jobs will be available for me to pursue. I could give up and be subdued by the hopelessness of defeat, but I refuse to go that route. I would like to someday succeed in life and fulfill my dreams of becoming a pharmacist. To quell the disturbing rumors that I won’t have a job, I believe all things are possible through God so I pray constantly. I believe things will turn around soon. And I will be able to once again enjoy the lifestyle that others including me took for granted.