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The end of the perfect melons

Picture credit: Malaysia Tatler
Rattana Lao

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On May 2019, two melons from Hokkaido sold at the prices of 45,000 USD.

Yes, you heard it right. Two melons.

They were not your “regular” melons. According to Business Insider, which published the documentary on the world most expensive melons, these two are considered the “most perfect” in terms of size, sweetness and even the cracks on their skins.

The documentary went on a great length about the culture of melons in Japan. It’s a part of a “gift giving” culture – where exchanging melons is symbolic and signifies a lux life, generosity and yes “Japanese perfection”.

The farmers featured in the documentary demonstrate the growth and development of melons from its inception. Each of these “perfect melons” is grown on beds with air-conditioning and heating in order to control the temperature, they are watered on exact amount to ensure the exact result. Each tree, although can grow multiple melons, the only “perfect” one will be kept to let it grow. Each day, they will receive hand massage to ensure the absolute highest quality – not just about the taste but how it looks.

In Japan, melons are not just fruit. Growing them represents Japanese culture of hard-work, discipline and most of all the quest for perfection.

This quest says a lot about Japanese culture. Take the Omakase, where the chefs serve the “most perfect” pieces of fish that comes through the kitchen each day.

The farmers love crafting their skills, the buyers love their cash. Win-win.

“it’s part of the culture” – so they say.

Talking about growing melons reminds me so much about the stories of Japanese educational system.

Japan has long prided itself for being competitive educational system where students “perfect” their scores and rank ahead of their peers. Japanese students go through ardent educational system that compels them to memorize rote learning, excel in exams and get into prestigious university. It is believed through “this perfect route” students will succeed and be satisfied.

This culture has pushed Japan to lead economic competition with others for decades. The 1970s saw the United States published a paper, the Nation at Risk, to outline the fear that the United States’ students were falling behind the Japanese.

Despite valuing the collective, comformative and community, behind Japanese educational success is fierce competition amongst students that cause discomfort and discontent. One can go as far as argue that such mindset nurtures distress within the society.

I have had the privilege teaching Japanese students during my teaching career. One of my Japanese students, Mami Oda from Yokohoma, brought my attention to what she called “the dark side of Japanese success”.

When she talked dark, she meant, really dark.

The growing phenomenal of youth suicide.

Mami analyzed this tragedy in plain word:

Although Japanese are known for their hardworking and it is just work ethic that has helped build this prosperous country, but such focus is detriment to their health. While thinking only about contributions to companies or organizations, they are forgetting about themselves and their own achievements. Economic affluence does not necessarily lead to happiness.

On average, there were 30,000 people annually committed suicide, in other words,  more than 80 people a day committed suicide in Japan. In addition, more than 3 million are bereaved families who died in suicide. Therefore, one in 40 people were bereaved families of suicide.Data has shown that suicide is the top cause of death among 15 years old to 39 years old.

Report by CNN shows similar trajectory and confirmed this analysis.

More Japanese children and teenagers killed themselves between 2016 and 2017 than in any year since 1986, according to a government report.

The latest survey shows 250 elementary and high school age children took their own lives in that year for a variety of reasons including bullying, family issues and stress, the country’s Ministry of Education said Monday, according to local media.

Of course, suicide is multi-facet, deeply personal and highly sensitive to individual and context.

This is not to generalization. But the prevailing youth distress calls us to look deeply and critically into the values our society upholds and the impacts these values have on the mental health of our young.

The world that values perfection suggests that is one type of form that fits just right. Instead of celebrating the culture of fitting in to the perfect mold, an education system can do better than that.

It should.

It must.

Education system should encourage individual students to express their thought, senses of selves and creativity. Because a healthy and sustainable society values diversity and inclusion, we need to instill these values within our students since the start of their lives.

Cartoons, books, stories, movies and parenting – all that count to make a child a whole.

There isn’t a single activity that nurtures and ensures “perfect students”.

In education – talking about any single outcome is myopic. It is a process, an experience and the growth of that individual that defines who they are and become.

I watched this documentary about the “perfect melons” as an educator who believes, values and embraces diversity in children development. Wearing that hat, I am reminded of the educational philosophy by John Dewey, the renown educator of the twentieth century on this subject.

According to Dewey, a child is like a flower that we should let them grow naturally and organically. The family, schools and society have big parts to play like water, sun and soil that nurtures them.

As a society, we have a moral obligation to help our children develop to their fullest potential in the paces they can take, in the way most comfortable to their characteristics.

It is not just taking the village to raise a child. It takes the whole forest and a healthy forest requires diverse kinds of organisms to instill within these children to respect the differences of others’ talents, interests and ideas and of course, their own, perfectly imperfection.

Rattana Lao holds a doctorate in Comparative and International Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and writes on education and development. She is based in Bangkok, Thailand.

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New Social Compact

The power of love: comparison of two romantic relationships

Elchin Hatami

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The article illustrates the role of love in two romantic relationships based on two novels. Conrad and Jeanine are the two main characters in “Ordinary People”, a novel by Judith Guest [1], and also Don and Rosie have similar roles in “The Rosie Project,” which was written by Graeme Simsion. The books were published at different times and were written about different societies and conditions. Although Conrad’s relationship with Jeanine and Rosie’s friendship with Don have some similarities, their relationships are mostly different. Don and Conrad have various mental disorders. Conrad’s problem appeared because of events that happened in his life, but Don’s disorder is genetic, and he needed to learn how to communicate with people. The relationship between Conrad and Jeannine helps Conrad to get better and accept that horrible event as the reality of his life. On the other hand, Don has problems with socializing and cannot communicate with women well. Finally, he fell in love with Rosie, and the power of that love caused him to fix his behavioral problem. Rosie and Jeanine’s presence and love affected Conrad and Don and helped the two men began to heal considerably.

According to the novels “Ordinary People” and “The Rosie Project,” their relationships happened at different times and in different regions. Conrad and Jeannine are younger than Don and Rosie. Naturally, their thoughts and feelings were different from Don and Rosie’s. For example, in the first meeting, it seems that Conrad had a positive attitude about Jeannine and just looked for her beauty. The first time when they talked to each other, they had a friendly greeting. After the greeting, Jeannine and her friend turned away, and Conrad walked blindly behind them, down the hall toward history class (Ordinary People, p.21). In contrast, Don, when he first visited Rosie, did not empathize with her. He could not tolerate her differences, and though her lifestyle and characteristics were not familiar to him; then, he found her unsuitable for his Wife Project. For instance, when Rosie said she was a vegetarian, he thought vegetarians and vegans could be incredibly annoying (The Rosie Project, p.51). He also found her smoking inappropriate and criticized her smoking habit; “Smoking is not only unhealthy in itself and dangerous to others in our vicinity, but it is also a clear indication of an irrational approach to life” (The Rosie Project, p.57). In fact, Conrad found Jeanine more attractive at the first meeting, but Don showed no interest in Rosie, and he was agitated when he saw Rosie was completely different than he expected. Moreover, during Conrad and Jeanine’s relationship, it can be recognized that they loved each other, and Conrad was a very kind partner to Jeanine. For example, when she talked about her parents and cried, Conrad lifted her chin with his hand and kissed her (Ordinary People, p.200). The events in the novel showed that Conrad always had romantic behavior. Jeanine also had a good agreement with him. For instance, she encouraged him to write the song and notate it. “I love it. Let’s notate it, okay? I have got some paper. Here, play it again. It is so lovely and clean” (Ordinary People, p. 245). Conversely, Don was very selfish. He just set his schedules, thought about himself and did not care about Rosie’s feelings. In the laboratory, when he was testing the DNA samples for the Father Project, he hurt Rosie’s feelings and said, “Presumably, you think it is to initiate a romantic relationship.” Rosie answered, “The thought had crossed my mind.” Don continued with this sentence, “I am extremely sorry if I have created an incorrect impression. I am not interested in you as a partner. I should have told you earlier, but you are completely unsuitable.” Rosie said, “Well, you will be pleased to know I can cope. I think you are pretty unsuitable too” (The Rosie Project, p.125). Consequently, Don and Rosie’s relationship was completely different from Conrad and Jeanine’s affair. It seemed that it was one-sided love that eventually changed during the relationship.

Finally, at the end of the novel, Conrad and Jeanine’s love affair raised their life expectancy and helped them to forget their pasts that had subjected them to terrible events. The author illustrated that they were happy after forming a deep relationship, and portrayed the result of their relationship with the following sentences: “He squeezes her tightly, feeling the sense of calm, of peace slowly gathering, spreading itself within him. He is in touch for good, with hope, with himself, no matter that” (Ordinary People, p.251). Therefore, the presence of Jeanine helped Conrad’s mental problem got better and returned to a healthy life. In contrast, Don and Rosie’s relationship process was different. They went to New York City, and in the hotel, when Rosie opened the door wearing only a towel, he recognized that she was extremely attractive and fell in love with her (The Rosie Project, p.221). First, Rosie kissed him, and then he kissed her back; again, she responded (The Rosie Project, p.223). When he declared his marriage intention to her, she refused and said, “Don, you do not feel love. You cannot love me” (The Rosie Project, p.269). After that, he began to change his behavior. He thought he should open his life socially to a wider range of people and decided to fix his behavior. In fact, he struggled to solve his communication and empathy problems, which were defining symptoms of the autism spectrum, to win Rosie’s love and feeling.

In conclusion, Conrad and Jeanine’s relationship in comparison with Don and Rosie’s dating have happened at different times, in different places, and involved different situations. Despite the differences, both events lead to similar results. The presence of Jeanine and her love helped Conrad to improve his mental problem. Additionally, when Don fell in love with Rosie, he decided to change and socialize more to obtain Rosie’s good impression. The power of love treated Conrad and Don’s mental disorders significantly. On the whole, love is a powerful impression and profound feeling that often can help people overcome psychological problems. Research also has shown that individuals can obtain good health and long life via having a romantic relationship, and falling in love also can improve critical mental disorders.

Endnotes:

1. Ordinary people is a novel by Judith Guest that first published in 1976. The novel talks about life of the Jarretts, a typical American family who try to cope with the consequences of two traumatic events.

2.The Rosie Project is a 2013 Australian novel by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion. The novel is the New York Times bestseller book. The novel was written about genetics professor Don Tillman, who struggles to have a serious relationship with women.

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Invisible COVID-19 makes systemic gender inequalities and injustices visible

Muratcan Isildak

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It is no surprise that the Covid-19 epidemic is not gender-neutral in our social world, which requires everything to be sexually consequently halted economic activities and enforced social distance. The gender dimension of the outbreak is very violent and paralyzed, but they are not new and surprising. In fact, the invisible covid19 is hyper-global and largely corporate-driven, with its economic, environmental and social injustices, permanent gender inequality and sexism, severe xenophobia and racism, and new colonialism and marketed mining activity implemented by self-owned financial, political and intellectual elites has made many fault lines visible in our world visible.

In the context of the coronavirus epidemic and other systemic crises, some useful features associated with female leadership, such as knowing their own limits, motivating through transformation, putting people on top of self-praise, humility, focusing on raising others, and empathizing rather than managing others, are more gender-sensitive, egalitarian and human rights. can help improve centered responses. At the very least, the diversity of approaches and experiences in addressing public health and human safety should be an argument for more equal representation of women at all levels of decision-making. This can affect, for example, how parliaments (currently 75% men worldwide) protect and safeguard human rights, how gender-sensitive the measures they take and how they should control their implementation after Covid-19 and how we can build a better future.

The Covid-19 outbreak is not the real cause, but it is a reinforce, enhancer and aggravating of existing discrimination and injustice in our systems and societies, including crushing, using and victimizing women and girls in many areas of daily life. It does not separate viruses, societies and systems. It is not a coincidence that the dominant economic pattern and thinking are constantly exploiting existing gender stereotypes, and that women and girls are constantly underestimating their contribution to the survival of societies by making the care work invisible, worthless, low-paid, and insignificant. Therefore, the fight against corona virus should be comprehensive and systematic. This struggle cannot be limited to the virology plane and cannot be referred to improving health systems; The feminist, human rights-based, intersectional and justice-oriented analysis, based on nationalist and authoritarian austerity and competition policies, is based on human rights, intersectional and justice-oriented analysis, cultural, political, social and economic levels. it should attack discrimination and inequality inside and outside.

Gender experts and feminists are wise to deal with the epidemic in their writings and analysis to begin to transform the way our societies work, the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, especially women and girls, to protect, empower and take advantage of them. it reminds us that we need to use this momentum – and initiatives, resources, research, actions and discourses. They are also making a joint effort to monitor the actions of governments and companies and to impose the responsibility to launch the fundamental changes needed now. This is a gender equality, intersectional and human rights that prioritize people’s well-being, participation in decision-making processes and access to basic services and resources, centrally for the responsibilities targeted at the local, national and global level, during and after the Covid-19 outbreak.

Finally, during a terrifying global crisis such as the Covid-19 outbreak, especially to political leadership, to both real leadership examples and failures, and therefore to societies experiencing multiple and intersecting human, economic, social, sanitary and political crises, We witness the need to re-evaluate what qualities we are looking for in leaders who are expected to guide the world after the epidemic, which is radically different from the pre-epidemic world. A series of gender experts and observers, comparing different national responses – and leadership styles – to the coronavirus crisis, is not the debt of female leaders in different countries such as Taiwan, New Zealand and Germany, and female heads of states in some Scandinavian countries, in times of crisis to empathize and diligently. points out that they emphasize that there is power. The success of the epidemic in limiting the worst excesses in their country is even more impressive, given that at the start of the epidemic, only 10 out of 152 elected presidents, and therefore only 7% of all global political leaders, were women. Compare this to the style of a group of male leaders who use the crisis around the world, perhaps the most striking example of Hungary, who use the crisis to speed up authoritarianism and undermine the principle of separation of powers, and resort to the war of blame rather than offering stable crisis management. This shows only what social scientists have previously confirmed at various levels, that is, there are some gender differences in leadership activity.

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New Social Compact

The Need for Humanitarian Leadership and Global Solidarity during COVID-19

Dr.Anis Ben Brik

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The coronavirus pandemic is a systemic human development crisis, affecting individuals and societies in unprecedented ways. It is also generating new humanitarian needs.

According to UN estimates, half a billion people, or 8% of the world’s population, could be pushed into destitution by the year’s end, largely due to the pandemic. If so, then the fight against poverty would be set back 30 years. The International Rescue Committee said last week that the virus could cause 1bn infections and 3.2m deaths in 34 fragile states, including Afghanistan and Syria.

The fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises highlights Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Haiti among the countries most at risk of widespread famines caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to World Food Programme estimates, the number suffering from hunger could rise from 135 million to more than 250 million.

The International Labour Organization reported last week that almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market)out of a worldwide 2 billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion are in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of humanitarian leadership and global solidarity. On April 2, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by 188 nations including Qatar, calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic, including by exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and by applying the relevant guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.”

Solidarity is a matter of both morality and long-term vision. Failure to pass this test would leave deep psychological wounds in left-behind countries, paving the way for all manner of extremism and new crises—from pandemics to conflicts—that would threaten everyone. By rallying around science and solidarity today, we will sow the seeds for greater unity tomorrow.

The coronavirus does not respect borders. Nor does it discriminate. It brings into stark view the imperative for humanitarian leadership. This crisis has revealed variations in state capacity to contain the spread of the virus.

Many governments either lack adequate capacity to respond, or in some cases, the necessary political will to provide for their citizens. For example, the most developed countries – those in the very high human development category – have on average 55 hospital beds, over 30 physicians, and 81 nurses per 10,000 people, compared to 7 hospital beds, 2.5 physicians, and 6 nurses in a least developed country.

One can readily imagine that if the COVID-19 response has been dire in the developed countries, it is going to be infinitely more devastating for governments that have only a fraction of the financial and medical resources.

Despite the blockade, the State of Qatar stands out as one of the most actively involved in global humanitarian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qatar has provided significant humanitarian aid to 20 countries so far, including assistance in the field of medical supplies, building field hospitals, and contributing USD 140 million to multilateral organizations working to develop vaccines or ensure the resilience of healthcare in other countries.

To date, Qatar has sent substantial aid to China, Iran, Palestine, Italy, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia, Nepal and Rwanda. In addition, the representation mission of the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in Turkey has recently distributed supplementary food aid to around 110,000 families at internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps in Idlib and Aleppo Governorates, northern Syria.

In the age of COVID-19, protecting the most vulnerable among us is not just a moral imperative but also an urgent public health objective. The health of one is the health of all.

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