What really is knowledge? How are they linked to dreams?

Today during our second lesson of Theory of Knowledge (TOK), we had just begun experiencing the meaning of the word knowledge. The word knowledge implies that we base our “knowledge” on facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education. It is the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. Knowledge can be acquired through the awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. However, knowledge can be questioned by what we can see. If something is not proven or is not witnessed first hand, it is hard to believe. Knowledge and belief tend to tie ends, as when a person finds a result from an action, it turns into both belief and knowledge. For example, if you kick a ball it will move forward. So if a person actually does kick a ball and it does move in that direction, then the person will believe the statement and believe that if anyone kicks a ball, it will move. The person is able to come to this conclusion because they have witnessed the situation. 


The idea of knowledge can also be linked to dreams. We tend to dream about what we have seen before. Dreaming is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Although the content and purpose of dreams are not fully understood, we believe that dreams appear to be influenced by our waking lives in many ways. Theories about why we dream include those that suggest dreaming is a means by which the brain processes emotions, stimuli, memories, and information that’s been absorbed throughout the waking day. Rather than knowledge being connected to dreams, it is actually that your dreams can affect your knowledge. Your dreams represent your subconscious and your conscience, so when your actions in a dream are different to how you feel the way you would act would later affect your knowledge.  


An interesting relationship between dreams and knowledge has actually already been explored in the movie Inception (Leonardo DiCaprio!!). Inception is about Dom Cobb who is a thief with the rare ability to enter people’s dreams and steal their secrets from their subconscious. His skill has made him a hot commodity in the world of corporate espionage but has also cost him everything he loves. Cobb gets a chance at redemption when he is offered a seemingly impossible task: Plant an idea in someone’s mind. If he succeeds, it would be the perfect crime, but a dangerous enemy anticipates Cobb’s every move. Inception itself is the practice of entering dreams and planting an idea in someone’s head. 


The link between dreams and knowledge is that reality can be bent as it can become hard to distinguish between reality and fantasy. If you’ve ever said “I don’t know what was real and what was fake”, you’ve got reconciliation issues. When you’re faced with making fantasy and reality consistent with one another so that you can accept the truth of what has happened, and what you feel, do, or are being, you opt for the illusions. This basically suspends you in No Man’s Land while opening you up to problems in the real world. This is what bends the difference between knowledge and belief through dreams. This is because fantasy is an idea with no basis in reality and is basically your imagination unrestricted by reality. Whereas reality is the state of things as they exist. It’s what you see, hear, and experience, this could also be a lucid dream. 


There is a high possibility that we could be dreaming right now. Apparently, it is said that before our body completely shuts down when we die we still have sevens minutes of brain activity left in our body which revisits every moment in our lives. What if we (or I) are dying right now and are reliving the last seven minutes of our lives?  It is something that we will never know. 



The Fate of Antarctica

Right now, much of the top of the world is smoked out. NASA satellites have observed what looks like a vortex of smoke swirling over Siberia, which has been on fire for weeks. Multiple satellites in orbit have been monitoring huge plumes of smoke from wildfires in parts of Russia, including Siberia, as well as Canada and Alaska. For the past few months now, scientists with Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) have been keeping an eye on over 100 fires above the Arctic Circle, all pumping pollution into the sky. As of now, we don’t actually have that much evidence on the fires in Antartica.


But what we do know is what would happen if Antartica thawed. What do you think would happen if it completely melted?


Of course, the consequences of Antartica melting would be similar to if we cleared the Amazon as the effects would contribute to the ongoing issues of global warming and climate change. 98% of Antartica’s surface is smothered under a massive ice sheath with an average dept of 1.6 kilometres and despite how big/small Antartica looks on the map, it is actually the fifth-largest continent in the world  (14 million square kilometres). Antartica is made up of 26.5 million cubic kilometres of ice, that is if you disregard the land underneath. 


That’s a lot. 


Antartica actually contains 70% of the Earth’s freshwater so if it would all melt from global warming, there would be serious repercussions. Primarily, if it already wasn’t obvious, sea levels would increase by 60 metres. This would result in widespread flooding, and anywhere near a coast would not be safe. In total, anywhere between 1 to 2 billion people could be displaced by this event. Secondly, the freshwater from Antartica would affect and alter the salinity of the seawater. Consequently, this would damage several marine populations and ecosystems and could even force species (like coral) into extinction as they may not be able to adapt to freshwater. However, more importantly, if the salinity of the water decreased, that means that the density of the water has also decreased which in turn would disrupt ocean currents. This would throw off the entire circulation of water throughout the ocean and the atmosphere. The circulation of the sea is such that cold water (as it is less dense) will flow at the surface and warmer water will sink down to the bottom (as it is denser). In countries near the equator, cooler water flows to… well, cool the region down, which is why the water in the northern and southern hemisphere is a lot warmer. So if the seawater becomes less dense due to the decrease in salinity, it means that there wouldn’t be a structured way to detect ocean currents. This, in turn, would affect our weather. The ocean and air act like heat engines, which move heat to the poles in a constant quest for balance. This disrupts the overall heat flow, thus causing massive hurricanes which countries like Puerto Rico the Philippines have been experiencing. (the reason this happens is that there is no ice to limit the amount of moisture that moves from the ocean to the atmosphere and create these super tornados.) 


So, aside from losing several cites like Seoul, Korea, the river basin in the Amazon and other coastal regions, we would have to face a drastic increase in the number of natural disasters as well as global warming and climate change. This would worsen the condition of the planet as it would destroy the balance of nature which is an irreversible change. Additionally, countries which do not have stable economies (ie, South American, Asian and African countries) would have difficulty in surviving these extreme environmental changes due to the lack of resources. 


The problem seems too vast and there doesn’t seem to be any possible solutions. 

Do we have the right to tell another person’s story? HL ENGLISH LIT

Personally, I feel that to some extent we do have a right to tell another person’s story. However, it must be factual rather than opinion-based. In my opinion, I think that sharing a person’s story may benefit society as it may educate people or at least help spread ideas and beliefs. Sharing a person’s story may even act as a voice for minority groups in communities, or people who are unable to express themselves which would in turn help to raise awareness on certain issues. Sharing stories, helps people connect through not just problems that we face but also through culture and religion or even personal opinions on certain ideas helps to build relationships. However, it also depends on what the story entails, as the story may be a traumatic personal experience and exaggerating the event through personal opinions could influence the way other people understand the story.  

Fires of Amazon

The world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon spans over eight countries and covers around 40% of South America, an area that is nearly the size of two-thirds of the US, according to the World Wildlife Fund. A new plant or animal species is discovered there every two days. The Amazon forest, which produces about 20% of earth’s oxygen, is often referred to as the planet’s lungs. Today, an inferno in the Amazon, ⅔ of which is in Brazil, endangers the rainforest ecosystem and this threatens to affect the entire globe.

Recently, it has been brought to the world’s notice that South Americans are deliberately starting fires in the Amazon rainforest to illegally deforest indigenous land for cattle ranching. Currently, as it stands, the Amazon is the world’s deforestation front which is controlled by 9 developing nations (Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Equador, Chile, Peru Guyana, Suriname) which means that each country in this region is trying to use their natural resources to improve their economic development and living conditions. Roughly, 20% of the Amazon rain forest has been cleared so far to make room for livestock. This may not seem like too much, considering the size of the Amazon. However, if the consequences of cutting the Amazon down in one go is so terrifying, then burning it down may worsen those consequences. 


Suppose that 100% of the Amazon is indeed cut down without control… what would the consequences be? 


Primarily, we would have to cover 5,5000,000 square kilometres and approximately cut 390 billion trees down. Once, the trees have been cut down, they would have to decompose over time. When organic materials decompose, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Now, if we wipe the Amazon out, the trees would decompose and release around 140 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air which is almost 3-5 times what we emit annually (worldwide). This would drastically increase the amount of CO2, making it harder for us to breath even if the process of growth and decay is (almost) equal. The sudden increase in CO2 would also affect the oceans as increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would translate into more dissolved CO2 in the ocean water. Thus, decreasing the pH level and turning the water acidic. This would damage sensitive marine ecosystems such as corals and would lead to bleeding and “mass die-offs” (where large masses of organisms are killed). Not to mention, the trees aren’t the only organisms living in the Amazon. This rainforest has the world’s greatest collection of life on earth which means that once the Amazon is cleared we will lose 40,000 plant species, 2,500,000 insect species, 1,300 bird species, 400 mammals and 400 amphibians species all gone!  To top it all, the Natives who live and rely on the Amazon rainforest for their survival. 


If we now look at the impacts of the missing rainforest, the land in South America would experience drastic degrees of erosion as there would be no more trees holding the soil together. As the rainforest is situated in the largest drainage basin, the water would collect and carry the infertile soil (which we need for agriculture) as there are no plants to help absorb the water. 


The destruction of the forest would also affect the South American countries’ economy as the rainforest aids as a factor of production for agriculture and labour. It also is a tourist attraction, so jobs that rely on the forest would collapse and force the people residing in the countries further into poverty. 


However, the most drastic change in the world would be the Earth’s weather system. There is a process that plants undergo called transpiration (also known as evapotranspiration). It is a process of photosynthesis where plants release water vapour from their leaves (due to the transpiration pull) into the atmosphere. This water vapour floats up to become clouds and becomes the rain. The rainwater isn’t negligible as plants actually use very little of the water that they take in. Plantlife on Earth accounts for 10-15% of all the water in the atmosphere, the rest being provided by the ocean which is an enormous amount of water. Thus the forest virtually makes its own rain, as water evaporates and forms clouds, this process is what preserves the ecosystem in the rainforest. If we take these trees away, there will be less transpiration, but if we take all of the tree’s away, there won’t be any more rain. Consequently, this would lead to the world experiencing droughts, these droughts can, in turn, cause forest fires and worse.   


What an indigenous woman have to say, from the tribe Pataxó:

“These assholes came in and burned down our reservation… I want all of the media here to see this. For 2 years we’ve fought to preserve our reservation & these assholes came in & burned it down. They are killing our rivers, our sources of life, & now they have set our reserve on fire. Tomorrow we are closing the roads & I want all the media here to see this. We need action, we need now, we need to take those ones to justice and take President Jair Bolsonaro to respond to this too, we need people to wake up that being a conservative it’s not the same as being a stupid retrograde-image Indigenous people, animals and nature are screaming in pain for help.” from “Quebrando o Tabu” and Sunrise Movement on Twitter

Reading about Global Politics

The IB year starts in just a couple of days and I’ve never been so excited for school to start. For one of my HL subjects I have chosen Global Politics and as the schedule was just released today, I was encouraged to work harder for this subject. 


To have a basic understanding of Global Politics and at least grasp the fundamental concepts, I started to read this book called, “Global Politics” by Andrew Heywood. At first, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend the concepts because they would be too complicated, but it turns out that the theories are quite simple which help me to relate these topics to real-life situations (such as Brexit and the South China Sea dispute).


Apparently, one of the most important things about studying Global Politics is understanding what the world ‘global’ really means. ‘Global’ could either mean that there is a worldwide significance or that it is comprehensive. When ‘global’ is understood in terms of worldwide significance, it suggests that politics must be conducted at a global level and focuses on the work of organisations such as the UN (United Nations) or WTO (World Trade Organization). Incidentally, when it comes to global worldwide significance, the focus is mostly on economic and environment based organisations. On the other hand, when ‘global’ is interpreted in terms of comprehensive, it implies that politics must refer to all the elements within a system (economic, political, social). So when ‘global’ is in terms of comprehensive, the term must reject the idea that the global level must include politics at the national or local level. 


“How do ‘the global’ and ‘the international’ complement one another?”


Global politics is based on a comprehensive approach to world affairs that takes account not just of political developments at a global level, but at all levels, global, regional, national and so on. In that sense, ‘the global’ and ‘the international’ complement one another and should not be seen as rival or incompatible. ‘International’ politics has been modified into ‘global’ politics through a variety of developments that have taken place. It is the levels of interconnectedness and interdependence in world politics that have increased and the international disorder has been altered by regional and global governance. 


What have been the implications of globalization for world politics? 


Globalization is the development of a complex web of interconnectedness which means that our lives are increasingly shaped by events that occur and the decisions that are made globally\. Globalization itself has several different definitions from textbooks over time:

  1. ‘[T]he intensification of worldwide social relations that link distant localities in a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa’ (Giddens 1990)
  2. ‘A process (or set of processes) which embody the transformation of the spatial organization of social relations and transactions’ (Held et al. 1999)
  3. The processes through which sovereign nation-states are crisscrossed and undermined by transnational actors with varying prospects of power, orientations, identities and networks’ (Beck 2000)
  4. ‘The integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, direct foreign investment, short-term capital flows, international flows of workers and humanity generally, and flows of technology’ (Bhagwati 2004)
  5. ‘A reconfiguration of social geography marked by the growth of transplanetary and super territorial connections between people’ (Scholte 2005)


The differences in political decisions are commonly formed between economic globalization (the process through which national economies have, to a greater or lesser extent, been absorbed into a single global economy), cultural globalization (the process whereby information, commodities and images that have been produced in one part of the world enter into a global flow that tends to ‘flatten out’ cultural differences between nations, regions and individuals) and political globalization (the process through which policymaking responsibilities have been passed from national governments to international organizations). However, there are significant discussions about whether globalization is actually happening and how far it has transformed world politics.


How do mainstream approaches to global politics differ from critical approaches? 


The two mainstream perspectives on global politics are realism and liberalism. These are both grounded in positivism and focus on the balance between conflict and cooperation in state relations, even though they offer quite different reports of this balance. Critical theories, in contrast, tend to adopt a post-positivist (accepting that theories, background, knowledge and values can influence what is observed) approach to theory and challenge the global status quo by aligning themselves with the interests of marginalized or oppressed groups. Realists generally place greater emphasis on conflict, while liberals highlight the scope for cooperation.


Realism is grounded in an emphasis on power politics (the assumption that the pursuit of power is the principal human goal), based on the following assumptions:

  • Human nature is characterized by selfishness and greed. 
  • Politics is a domain of human activity structured by power and coercion. 
  • States are the key global actors.
  • States prioritize self-interest and survival, prioritizing security above all else. 
  • States operate in a context of anarchy and thus rely on self-help.
  • The global order is structured by the distribution of power (capabilities) among states. 
  • The balance of power is the principal means of ensuring stability and avoiding war. 
  • Ethical considerations are (and should be) irrelevant to the conduct of foreign policy


In contrast, liberalism is based ultimately, on a belief in human rationality and moral goodness so the principle of balance or harmony operates in all forms of social interaction. The liberal form of global politics is based on the following key assumptions:


  • Human beings are rational and moral creatures. 
  • History is a progressive process, characterized by a growing prospect of international cooperation and peace.
  • Mixed-actor models of global politics are more realistic than state-centric ones. 
  • Trade and economic interdependence make war less likely. 
  • International law helps to promote order and fosters rule-governed behaviour among states. 
  • Democracy is inherently peaceful, particularly in reducing the likelihood of war between democratic states.


However, critical perspectives of global politics try to go beyond the positivism of mainstream theory, emphasizing instead the role of consciousness in shaping social conduct and, therefore, world affairs. These so-called post-positivist theories are, therefore ‘critical’ in that they not only take issue with the conclusions of mainstream theory but also subject these theories themselves to critical scrutiny, exposing biases that operate within them and examining their implications.


How have the contours of world politics changed in recent years? 


One of the ways the contours of world politics has changed is through the rise of Non-Government organizations which have emerged as important players and shapers in global politics. The trend of NGOs had officially begun with the United Nations (UN) in 1948 which is seen as the only true NGO of the world today. Since then, in recent years, there has been a rapid growth in the number of non-governmental organisations. For example, there are around 2 million NGOs in the United States, 65,000 in Russia and a newly developing country like Kenya has 24,000 NGOs. 


As it has emerged, there are two types of NGOs in today’s world, operational and advocacy. Operational NGOs, primarily focus on design and implementation of development-related projects which could be community-based, global, national or international. In contrast, advocacy NGOs, aim to promote or defend a particular cause which is why they are also known as promotional pressure groups or public interest groups. It is better to be or support an operational NGO as they deliver about 15 per cent of international aid, demonstrating a greater speed of response and level of operational effectiveness than governments in contrast to advocative NGOs which gain help by forcing and pressuring societies and communities. 


The rise of NGOs causes political controversy as NGO supporters believe that they enrich and benefit global politics as supporting NGOs help to widen peoples’ sense of civic responsibility. However, critics argue that NGOs attempt to gain a high media profile and attract support and funding, by making exaggerated claims thus distorting the public perception of the problems when they are not presented with precision. 


How has global politics changed in recent years in relation to the issues of power, security and justice?


Power, security and justice are the three key aspects of politics. All forms of politics are about power as politics is sometimes seen as the study of power. Global power is becoming more fragmented and pluralized, through the role played by international organizations. Power is also demonstrated through the capacity of new technology to alter power balances both within society and between societies, often empowering the traditionally powerless. Power is also divided into two different kinds, ‘soft’ power which is power as an attraction and ‘hard’ power which is power as coercion. Thus, ‘soft’ power is used to influence others by persuading them to follow or agree to norms and aspirations, as opposed to using threats or rewards.


Security is the deepest and most abiding issue in politics. Security has usually been thought of as a particularly pressing issue in international politics because, while the domestic realm is ordered and stable, by virtue of the existence of a sovereign state, the international realm is anarchical and therefore threatening and unstable. ‘National’ security is most focused on as each state must have the capacity for self-defence. This allows countries to have military power, which reflects the assumption that the more militarily powerful a state is, the more secure it is likely to be. However, this only problem this can spark is that military expansion for defensive purposes by one state may be inclined to be potentially or actually aggressive by other states which could lead to other states mobilising. 


Justice has viewed justice as a largely irrelevant issue in international or global politics. This is due to liberals, who insist that international politics and morality should go hand in hand to prevent conflict and violence. Thus mostly focusing on national independence and political freedom. These views from liberalists come from the idea of global justice which is rooted in the belief of universal moral values which apply to all people in the world regardless of nationality and citizenship. 


Although this is just the beginning, I am thrilled to study more on these topics at school! Personally, I’m excited to read further about terrorism and learning its significance and countering it as well as global environmental issues as I would like to see how global politics and the economy could affect climate change.  

Ballet  Reflection II

Over the summer as I had time to spare I decided to help my ballet teacher teach her younger students. I wanted to experience her work myself, and see how she had to manage her daily schedule since in the future I have a dream of teaching ballet.

It was definitely harder than I thought. The younger the students were, the harder they were to control and to top it all, they were shy. They were also very obstinate and stubborn, which I suppose comes with their young age. However, while I was learning how to teach, I realized that children at such young ages are unable to grasp certain concepts. Especially when it comes to physically controlling your body, like the way your feet are supposed to be pointed or how your torso and waist should be placed, it is difficult for them to keep their muscles in place.

So in order to do this, Teacher Jaena came up with stories or at least used common children’s stories to almost deceive the kids into doing what they’re supposed to do. She incorporates the stories, for example, an exercise meant to teach them how to sit straight and be elegant in their movements can be shown in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, when Goldilocks reaches down to drink the porridge. There are also instances when Disney music is played rather than classical ballet music in order to gain the attention of the young students. Giving them books to fill up with the stickers they receive every lesson is yet another trick to manipulate them into participating in class and listening to the teacher.

Personally, this made me realize that for a large amount of time that I had been defending ballet against its stereotype of being girly or princess-like as I felt that it was a form of theatrical art which demanded physical and mental focus. However, it turns out that in order to make the girls understand what is happening in class or at least to keep them interested, the idea of being cute, girly and being a princess is always brought up, almost in every class. Of course, such ploys are used to show the importance of grace, poise, nice manners but it also hints and implies that women are only supposed to be graceful and pretty at all times. When extended, this thought could lead to the understanding that men in contrast, are entitled to demand their own way and are entitled to do exactly what they want.  But surprisingly, this isn’t what society is trying to promote at the moment, instead, it is trying to promote the opposite.

I do feel that rather than introducing the power of a female dancer in the higher grades, the children should be socialized into it right from the very beginning.


Ballet Reflection I

I’ve finally done it!!

Passed Inter-Fountadion with high merit and with only one more year to go until my ballet training is complete and I can become full-fledged ballet teacher.

Quite recently, I had a ballet exam during my IGCSE exams. It was definitely a very stressful period of time for me as I had to juggle between spending time studying for school and practising for dance.  My dance teacher, Jaena had asked me to skip a year after grade 7 and head straight to Intermediate Foundation as I was already strong enough to be able to move up a grade (I have been dancing since I was 5).

Despite having to spend time on studying and dancing, I was able to pass my exams with a high merit, a couple of marks off a distinction. This comes as a surprise to me and I understand that it is possible, if only I am willing to work hard.

Daughters Of Chivalry Book Review

The book, Daughters of Chivalry, written by Kelcey Wilson-Lee portrays the forgotten lives of five remarkable women from the 1200s. The author explores and exposes the myths surrounding the lives of the medieval princesses. These women’s (Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth) fates included marriages of convenience to Counts and Princes have been largely ignored by historians who tend to focus on their far more well-known brother, Edward II, and his formidable wife, Isabella of France.   


The lives of these women were completely dictated, by their father, Edward I, King of England (1272 to 1307). They were to experience a courtly culture which was founded on romantic desire and pageantry, they knew that a princess was to be disciplined yet a mother to many children, preferably sons. Passive yet able to influence a stubborn husband or even command a host of men-at-arms. As princesses, they were expected to aid in forming alliances, secure lands and territories through marriage. They also had to skillfully manage enormous households, navigate uneven diplomatic waters and promote their family’s cause throughout Europe. Thus, they were utterly unlike the powerless princesses familiar from fairy tales, yet they do not command real power. It is almost akin to being a part of the royal family without having access to the crown. The details about their lives help to shatter many of the myths that continue to surround understandings of the opportunities open to and constraints placed upon medieval noblewomen. 


The princesses witnessed horrific sights as they travelled with their father around Europe, for example in the chapter “Three Deaths”, Eleanora, the eldest, arrived at a jousting tournament to celebrate her wedding, saw her father-in-law, the Duke of Brabant wounded so badly he died. However, traumatic events like this did not prevent the princesses from doing as they pleased. Edward I’s daughter, Joanna of Acre stands out the most (she was separated from her parents at a young age which gave her exceptional independence) as, as a teenager, Joanna fell out with a steward, and dared to “send two knights to Gascony to deliver her version of the story to Edward, along with a letter in which she beseeched: ‘Dear sire, we beg you… to believe the things which they shall tell you by word of mouth from me.’” Additionally, she complained that her younger sister Margaret’s household had two more servants than hers. Thus, two weeks later she did not attend Margaret’s magnificent wedding at Westminster, even though she was staying in Clerkenwell at the time. Hence, proving that despite their father constantly reminding them to act chivalrous, they proceed to do as they pleased and their father was unable to prevent them from doing so due to the “chivalry code”. Thus, despite being treated as fragile and weak under the chivalry code, women of the time were still able to have some say in conducting their own lives. 


Their rebellious behaviour later brought the end of chivalry for women, until Queen Elizabeth I completely ended the tradition of chivalry. However, these five women were not the only unrecognized princesses. Isabella of France, wife of Edward II of England, joined with her lover Roger Mortimer to dethrone Edward and then, have him murdered. Additionally, there was Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Queen of France (then later Queen of England) who was the Duchess of Aquitaine. Her status gave her significant power as a wife and mother and she served as governor in her husband’s absence. She also helped ensure significant royal marriages for her daughters, and eventually helped her sons rebel against their father, Henry II of England, her husband. She was imprisoned by Henry, but outlived him and served, once again, as governor, this time when her sons were absent from England.


Thus, the book illustrates the lives of medieval princesses, from the expectations placed on them as noblewomen, to the limited ways they could exercise authority, to interesting details about their clothing and education and proving that they were able to override basic societal views of the role of princesses. Rather than corporations and entertainment companies like Disney focusing on reiterating known stories of princesses like Cinderella or Snow White, perhaps they could focus on such real-life examples, the richness that is embedded in our own past. The author also portrays that these women, the forgotten daughters of England’s most famous king, were fierce, powerful, political, flawed and human. Thus, the book remains an ode to the earliest examples of empowered women.