Friday, October 31, 2003

My first published piece

Browsing the hard drive of an old computer is the corollary to opening an old trunk of personal memorabilia. I thought that I had lost it forever, but I found my first published piece, an editorial that I wrote for the college newspaper. This received quite a bit of commentary when it was first published; I chastised the "lip service" paid to the benefits of diversity and how students did not capitalize on its breadth and depth. Not only this, but students misconstrued diversity for advantages that disrupted the harmony that the university was trying hard to cultivate and promote. I reflected for the moment on this piece, as I thought about the circumstances - returning from a life-changing experience abroad - that provoked the words. And then another two hours passed wandering through the other writings and documents trapped on my old computer. Nostalgia is the same, regardless of its physical (old trunk) or virtual (computer files) form. And now, here is the first piece, published again with permission of the copyright holder :)

Look beyond simplistic definitions

DIVERSITY: Varied resources, experiences - not skin tone, culture -
should be our defining characteristics

By xxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx

I have often wondered what it would have been like to go
to a different university, perhaps a school closer to home.
I wonder what common ideologies would be accepted by
the student body if I had attended a school in Virginia or
South Dakota. Definitely, my college experience would
have been much different, but how different? What would
be the perspective if I had attended school in a
homogenous environment?

Honestly, I do not know if a homogenous environment
really exists. I have heard it many times before - those
people in the South and the Midwest do not really
understand what diversity is all about. What would it be
like if I was not white, and I lived in Indiana? I think that
we all have something to share with each other, if only we
listen up. I have many friends who go to school in Ohio,
since that is where I am originally from. Sure, the college
population is predominantly white; "diversity" is virtually
nonexistent - or is it?

I have experienced many deep-impacting experiences at
UCLA, and I have enjoyed the education afforded me.
This is a wonderful institution which we attend, and it
offers a breadth of resources for education and
development. I have been able to build wonderful
relationships with people of so many different
backgrounds; I have been challenged to think about the
consequences of human actions and study the relationship
between humans and their communities. I have been given
an opportunity to challenge myself to become a
contributing member of society, and I am grateful for this
opportunity.

But amidst the laudable qualities of our university, there is
a repugnant undercurrent that I have observed for quite
some time. There seems to be a discontented feeling
among many students regarding various components of
our education, particularly dealing with diversity issues.

Diversity, in the definition of student groups at UCLA, is
defined by two major issues - race and culture. If one is
asked to describe oneself at UCLA, inevitably, that person
will reveal these things. There is nothing wrong with that;
in fact, that is a good starting point to embrace our
differences. But that is usually where it ends.

This is a travesty. Of the breadth and depth of resources
on campus, the varied experiences that all of us can share
with each other - it stops at skin color and cultural
heritage? Does that define me? In a strict sense, yes. I am
white. Big deal. I really don't care. What does matter to
me is that I am a second-generation Hungarian, that I
lived in Brazil and Peru when I was younger, that I hail
from Ohio, that I enjoy lots of different cultures, that I
have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning. But, I
guess that I am white.

I have seen this happen so many times; we stop learning
about each other before we ever begin. There is a subtle
ignorance exercised here, there is an underlying racism
present. Why do we impose limitations on ourselves when
classifying each other? Unfortunately, it happens more
than I care to admit. College should be a time of
self-discovery, a time of personal exploration that should
create centered, sophisticated individuals able to contribute
to the greater good of society. I see many stunted
individuals walking around this campus, too involved in
issues surrounding their insular environment to notice the
damage it is doing to the campus community. There is so
much more than just race and culture; we are all so much
more than that.

Perhaps I am discounting the opportunities that I have had,
to travel and live in various parts of the world. I have been
able to witness different peoples around the globe; I have
been able to step outside my protected world to get a
perspective on humanity. I have been lucky in that
respect. What I have learned is that the multiculturalism
that we truly need to address is that of different people.
This is an individualistic thing; every person brings with
them an identity, and it is an identity that transcends
physical description. It is fruitless to stop the search
before it has even begun.

What if UCLA admitted more out-of-state students,
maybe those students from Virginia and South Dakota?
What if UCLA admitted more international students,
students with an international perspective? What if UCLA
admitted more students concerned with developing
themselves to help their communities rather than students
concerned with the injustices that have wronged them?
What if UCLA looked beyond the squabbling and used its
resources to draw from each other and make us all better
people? What if UCLA students actually listened to each
other without various forms of requital?

Would that help us all see the diversity that truly exists on
this campus, around this country and in this world? Would
we finally be able to see that the issues affecting us affect
others in a totally different way? Would we finally learn
what it means to be empathetic and understanding of each
other? Ultimately, that is the quest of true multiculturalism
and diversity. Through difference we learn similarity,
through varied perspective, we see the same world.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Going back to school

Vital is the word that describes the university campus. For many, the recollections of the college experience and the various activities associated bring pause and wistful sentiments of those four years full of promise without burden of accomplishment. We become older, find partners, acquire titles, produce children and dependents, and gather years; from one perspective, the process rolls downhill, slowly gaining speed as time accelerates away from the campus.
Until one returns to university. It does not matter if the university is alma mater - I personally visited a college considered rival to mine back in the days - it is the freedom of spirit that intellectual challenge brings to the person. We are ultimately creatures of discovery and change. We may not admit this, but we thrive on the dynamics of opportunity provided from what we know. And what we know best is what we learned in school. That is why going back holds such a mythical power and link to our primary moments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Tired of the computer screen

For some reason, I have become bothered at work. I have slight sensation of the keyboard, and my fingers run over keys that lead me off documents and into the greater web, looking for news that does not interest me. I jump to the New York Times page, then the Economist, perhaps over to my own sites, and perhaps over to bbc or FT. The day passes, sun crowns the sky and arcs back down, and I wonder what happened during the day.
If I use today as example, I completed a couple-slide presentation that required a sift through a diagram-ladened document, researched a website to download a zip file that I hardly reviewed to send to a colleague that I don't know who was asking for help on research topics of which I have no information. This was referenced by another colleague who asks me to assist on various analysis topics; she gets lazy now and just sends others my way as well, not bothering to get grounded in topics before contacting me. Still, I help them out.
Now, the day is almost done, and I feel that I have not accomplished anything of substance. And was I productive? More than likely, yes, but I have no idea in my state of malaise. I lack motivation. So, I am sitting here, trying to spur myself to activity on a list of random "action items" (could this be the problem - working on a disconnected set of activities that do not together add up to something of substance?) and wrapping up the day blubbering into the blog.
Such is life - I am tired of the computer screen.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Crisp Fall Days

There is something about a clear fall morning that is beyond description; I marveled at the clarity and brightness walking into work this morning. As I reflected on the beauty eminent on these crisp fall days in New York City, I realized that my time here is limited. I will be spending days in San Francisco and Dallas through the rest of the year, and New York City will no longer be my home. I will miss its lyrical qualities, the smells good and bad, the languages that dance in the air three and four at a time courtesy of the street vendors and financiers. I will miss its vitality, however imperfect and rough-hewn it can be. I will miss its intriguing companionship, the rumbling of the subway trains, and the people, oh those people shepherded from the corners of the earth that somehow make their way here. Somehow, New York City collects them all, sprinkles them amidst the boroughs, and goads them along to keep pace to the rhythms of ambition.
So, I let the moment go; my mind wandered into the branches of the canopy trees overhanging Madison Square Park. I walked past the shining statue of William H. Seward on the corner of 23rd and Fifth Avenue; his countenance was basking in the clear sunlight, contrasted by a wide blue sky. I walked past the Southern Fountain and traipsed along the octagon tiles on the ground that sparkled at different steps thanks to the filtered sunlight. I smiled and appreciated the crisp fall days that would soon pass as well, and my last days in New York City.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Hello to another weekend

As the weeks pass, the days pile into the hours that pile onto the timesheet that is submitted at week's end. In the fury of the dash to collapse the computer screen into the keyboard and shove the burgeoning life's work into the messenger bag. When that moment occurs, the hours of the week, piled high, suddenly melt away; time is forgotten, if for a moment, a wisp of breath intervenes, the chest sighs quietly, and for a brief moment, ever so brief, the world stops and wonders what it has done. Ever so brief, the pace stops, like the moment of a stroke, and then in the whisper of the moment, so brief it passes, and the dash for the elevator forgets the moment even happened.
At least for the few seconds of pause, inane duties translate to accomplishment - perhaps too brief but treasured for its feeling. And then, it is hello to another weekend.