Humans keep discriminating and ruining for themselves


(Photo credit: TimothyJ)

by Marius Brusegard

Chuck Laszewski mentions the catchphrase “Environmental racism” in his article “The sociologists’ take on the environment”. This phrase means that people with less influence or wealth have to suffer from environmental hazards caused by landfills, hazardous waste dumps and dirty factories. Laszewski further claims that numerous reports have proved conclusively that environmentally hazardous businesses have been overwhelmingly established in poor or minority neighborhoods, hence the phrase “environmental racism”. Politicians were able to bring dirty factories etc. into these areas by claiming that it would increase the tax base and create jobs. Indeed jobs were created, but according to sociologist David Pellow, referred to by Laszewski, these dirty facilities were producing poor economic results, jobs hazardous to the workers, and a new source of toxic emissions in the neighborhood.

These types of environmental hazards have been placed in these areas most likely because of the knowledge about how environmentally damaging the hazards really are. I find it hard to believe that helping these poor areas grow economically was an important part of the siting process of these environmentally hazardous businesses. I find it likely to believe that the economic growth and increase of jobs for the respective communities were used solely as arguments to convince the people of these areas to accept having these environmentally hazardous businesses placed in their areas. This means that the influential and wealthy people are knowingly forcing the less fortunate people to live in an environment damaging for their health. Even if people wanted to move away from this new environment, most of them probably can’t afford it. After all, many of them are living in these areas because they can’t afford living anywhere else. If they were to move to another area within their price range, chances are that they would eventually have to move again for similar reasons.

Another aspect that I find disturbing is that by building these factories etc. in poor areas with lack of jobs, it makes the areas dependent on these factories. There have been some cases of this happening in my home country, Norway. Factories were built in small communities and these communities then experienced economic and social growth. Naturally, many people in these towns got jobs at the factories, and the population even grew because of people moving there for work. However, after several years, the market changed and there were either no more need for the factories, or they were relocated somewhere else more beneficial to the factory owners. This caused a lot of people to lose their jobs, and their lives were abruptly changed. People were forced to move in search for work, schools had to be shut down, and the formerly vivid towns had transformed into so-called “ghost towns”.

The fact that people do not want to have these hazardous factories in their own neighborhoods testifies how dangerous they are. In order to get rid of these problems, we would have to stop producing products that creates hazardous waste, and go over to using natural products as far as possible. However, this means that the human race would have to take some steps back from today’s modern society. But moving backwards does not seem to be something the human mind is set to do, even if this way of moving backwards could result in a healthier and longer lasting environment for the future.


Sharing Culture

by Alexander Austad

As a globally intertwined society, what would be different if entertainment didn’t spread across borders in such a huge way as it does today? This question struck me after having discussed the export and import of media like movies and TV shows in sociology class.

I’m a Norwegian living in an international dorm in Japan, where I communicate with people of various nationalities every day. When I came here I was astonished by how easy it was to get along with everyone, as we quickly started joking around with this and that, often involving references from commonly known shows, music or what have you.

In Norway, a huge part of what is broadcasted on TV is from English speaking countries, and ever since I was little I have been playing video games in English, as most games do not get translated to Norwegian. I have always been grateful that I have been able to understand English from a young age thanks to this, but there is a cultural aspect to it as well that I had not thought of before.

If I was perfectly able to speak English, having learned it in school without any help from the media, chances are I couldn’t as easily had a lighthearted conversation with my friends here in my dorm, and I would most certainly feel slightly out of place if everyone around me was talking or sharing laughs about stuff that I had no idea what was.
With the huge flow of media comes the aspect of inclusion, and this on a different level than what we get from sharing for example intelligence and research across borders.

So does this mean less culture or more culture?

Norway is a small country, population wise, and we cannot really compete with the big dogs in the media industry, like Hollywood. This means that people like me will be kind of Americanized, if you will, and I have even been told here that I am “pretty much an American”.

Chatting with English native speakers here, while I feel like I may be lacking a cultural identity of my own at times, it is merely just that other people don’t see it as much, as I am adapting to ‘them’ when I’m here and not the other way around. I have my own set of references which I can only share with my Norwegian friends, and quite frankly I think that’s enough.

You shouldn’t just learn the language, because with it comes a culture, and I think the entertainment industry, although not necessarily the best source for portrayal of accurate culture, is a very important source, as it is about having shared common experiences with other people, and shared experiences is often what carries conversations.

The solution to immigration through failure

by Alexander Austad

Immigrants in Norway make up for about 13% of the population in Norway, and it is estimated that this number will be nearly doubled by 2050.

Since the 1980’s, like many other countries, Norway has seen a huge increase in immigration, meaning that the issues that we are seeing with immigration are still very new. There are questions being asked left and right about how societies are supposed to deal with this, and these questions are naturally often related to jobs, cultural adaption, education and accommodation. Now, we need to figure this out, but it is not at all strange that we haven’t solved everything yet. In fact, it would be strange if we already had everything under control.

It’s amazing what has happened even just the last few years, as everything is changing all the time. It’s hard to keep up with everything, and we are always looking for answers to it all, and we want them as soon as possible, or now, preferably. This thirst (and need) for solutions mixed with something as delicate as immigration creates the part of politics that will leave you with the biggest headache, and as the problem of increasing immigrants is like a ticking clock, it breeds an infinite amount of different opinions. But we need solutions, right?

I’m not saying that we should just drop everything and take a break, but I find that some people’s attitude towards this issue imply that we should already have the answers, and hence that we are failing. We are indeed failing, but not because we should already have the answers. Have we, as mankind, gotten where we are today by intuitively making the right decisions on new issues from day one? No, we have been failing over and over again, and this issue of increasing immigration is no exception.

I just say we keep at it, and as a reply to the German chancellors uttering about German multiculturalism having utterly failed, I say great! Then we can rule out an option that didn’t work and work towards a new idea. This is awfully optimistic, but if you think that this issue should be solved by now, well, that’s just not realistic.

Since the world is so well connected now, we are able to learn from each other’s failure and success, and we see increasing trends in using models from other countries. I am sure we will see working models for immigration, multiculturalism and what have you, but we might have to keep on failing for a few more decades.

Are foreign languages a threat to the host country culture and language?

by Glenn Soenvisen

In the mid-90’s a new term, “Kebab-Norwegian,” was coined in Norway; it meant the dialect of the Norwegian language which contained relatively many loanwords from non-western immigrants. This term was soon picked up and used vigorously by the media, where it sometimes was stated as a reason for the deterioration of the “real” Norwegian language. In some extreme cases it was even stated that the verb was put in the wrong place when speaking “Kebab-Norwegian” and female and neuter gender nouns became male. Some even said that it brought unwanted culture into the country, stating that degrading non-western words for “females” were used to refer to females in general. In short, some people perceived “Kebab-Norwegian” as a threat to the “real” Norwegian culture and language. Therefore, we needed assimilation of the users in order to retain our national identity and values.

What I find funny about this, though, is how little basis there are for these utterances. For one thing, “Kebab-Norwegian” is only used in the eastern parts of the Norwegian capital Oslo by immigrant youth and their possible native Norwegian friends; it’s an ethnolect rather than a dialect, and there has been no proof of it spreading to other parts of the country, as is only logical since ethnolects are associated with specific ethnic or cultural subgroups. You could say it is an in-group way of speaking.

And that brings me to another thing worth pointing out: the ethnolect in question is spoken, not written. Sure, users may write it when chatting online through facebook and the like, but those services are closed networks and not available to everyone. Furthermore, even Norwegians may write in their own dialects in such contexts, but it doesn’t seem to affect their ability to write correctly written Norwegian when needed.

Moreover, considering that “Kebab-Norwegian” is almost exclusively used by youths, the users of it are most likely bilingual, or even trilingual, having learned “real” Norwegian from a very young age, as well as English which are being taught from early elementary school level. Keeping this in mind we can take a look at what Alejandro Portes writes in his feature article “English-only triumphs, but the costs are high:” bilinguals outperform their monolingual counterparts in almost all cognitive tests.

In short, immigrants speaking “Kebab-Norwegian” should have no more difficulty in using suitable language to suitable situations on the same level as native Norwegians do. That learning two or more languages at the same time makes for underdeveloped ability in both/all is a thought for the 1930’s.

Besides, even Norwegians themselves mess with the genders of the nouns. I myself use all three genders (male, female, neuter), but in some parts of Norway the female one doesn’t exist. There’s also often the case that nouns can be used as both male and female. What’s more, the new rages in the language debate is that native Norwegian children are more and more using the sound sh [ ʃ ] where kj [ ç ] should be used and, to a lesser degree, using the word hvem (who) where hvilken (which) should be used.

Lastly, it’s not like degrading words for females in general is exclusive to non-western languages. I dare say that bitch is, unfortunately, used extensively in informal spoken English and Norwegian both.

Of course, foreign languages may have influence on the national language and culture, but only in minor ways, such as adding words which we don’t have any words for in our own language, replacing interjections, or introducing new foods. However, this cannot be considered a threat at all. Rather than threatening, the influences enrich and enhance, like an add-on to your browser. If “Kebab-Norwegian” really was a threat, one can wonder why the English influence, which is much bigger, hasn’t made us all speak “Norwish” yet. There is no need for complete assimilation.