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What are the most disturbing historical events that have been swept under the rug?
Denial Of The HolodomorPhoto credit: Alexander WienerbergerThe last Saturday in November, Holodomor Remembrance Day, honors the millions of Ukrainians who died of forced starvation at the hands of the Soviets in the 1930s. Some 80 years later, and a quarter-century after the Soviet Union’s dissolution, the Russian government still denies that this atrocity constitutes a “genocide.”Holodomor means “death by hunger,” formed from 2 words in Ukrainian: “holod” meaning hunger or starvation, depending on context; and “mor” meaning death or plague. It is likely that the word derives from the expression “moryty holodom” which means “to inflict death by hunger.” That’s exactly what happened to the people of Soviet Ukraine and primarily ethnically Ukrainian areas in the Northern Caucasus from 1932 to 1933, during a famine masterminded by Joseph Stalin.The Ukrainian independence movement actually predated the Stalin era. Ukraine, which measures about the size of France, had been under the domination of the Imperial Czars of Russia for 200 years. With the collapse of the Czarist rule in March 1917, it seemed the long-awaited opportunity for independence had finally arrived. Optimistic Ukrainians declared their country to be an independent People's Republic and re-established the ancient capital city of Kiev as the seat of government.The Hunt for Ukraine’s Toppled Lenin StatuesHowever, their new-found freedom was short-lived. By the end of 1917, Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the Soviet Union, sought to reclaim all of the areas formerly controlled by the Czars, especially the fertile Ukraine. As a result, four years of chaos and conflict followed in which Ukrainian national troops fought against Lenin's Red Army, and also against Russia's White Army (troops still loyal to the Czar) as well as other invading forces including the Germans and Poles.By 1921, the battles ended with a Soviet victory while the western part of the Ukraine was divided-up among Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. The Soviets immediately began shipping out huge amounts of grain to feed the hungry people of Moscow and other big Russian cities. Coincidentally, a drought occurred in the Ukraine, resulting in widespread starvation and a surge of popular resentment against Lenin and the Soviets.A family with starving children 1921 (The Holodomor: Stalin's Genocidal Famine that Starved Millions in the 1930s)At the time of the famine, many witnesses recorded the tragedy, and some of them even hinted at its criminal nature. But the passage of time dulled the memory of succeeding generations, and subsequent publications dealing with Ukraine and the Soviet Union said little of substance about this particular disaster. This event, the first man-made famine in the Ukraine, set the stage for the catastrophic famine of 1932–1933.To lessen the deepening resentment, Lenin eased martial law throughout the Ukraine, restricted the export so much grain, and even encouraged a free-market exchange of goods. Subsequently, people's burgeoning interest in independence facilitated a national revival movement celebrating their unique folk customs, language, poetry, music, arts, and Ukrainian orthodox religion.Joseph Stalin in an authorised image taken in 1937 and used for state publicity purposes (Joseph Stalin - WikipediaWhen Lenin died in 1924, he was succeeded by Joseph Stalin, one of the most ruthless humans ever to hold power. To Stalin, the burgeoning national revival movement and continuing loss of Soviet influence in the Ukraine was completely unacceptable.  To reassurt Soviet dominance, he employed the same methods he had successfully used within the Soviet Union.In 1928, Stalin introduced a program of agricultural collectivization that forced farmers to give up their private land, equipment and livestock, and join state owned, factory-like collective farms. Stalin decided that collective farms would not only feed the industrial workers in the cities but could also provide a substantial amount of grain to be sold abroad, with the money used to finance his industrialization plans.Many Ukrainian farmers, staunch advocates for independence, refused to join the collective farms, which they considered a return to the serfdom of earlier centuries. In response, Stalin introduced a policy of “class warfare” in the countryside in order to break down resistance to collectivization. The successful farmers, or kurkuls, (kuraks, in Russian) were branded as the class enemy. Brutal enforcement by regular troops and secret police were implemented to “liquidate them as a class.”Who were the kulaks? + ExampleThe publication of Joseph Stalin’s article “The Year of the Great Break” in 1929, marked the start of the Ukrainian genocide. Beginning in 1929, over 5,000 Ukrainian scholars, scientists, cultural and religious leaders were arrested after being falsely accused of plotting an armed revolt. According to the Ukrainian Quarterly of Autumn 1948, 51,713 intellectuals were sent to Siberia in 1931. It is conservatively estimated that at least 75 percent of the Ukrainian intellectuals and professional men in Western Ukraine, Carpatho–Ukraine and Bukovina have been brutally exterminated by the Russians.Those arrested were either shot without a trial or deported to prison camps in remote areas of Russia. The deportations culminated in the devastating forced famine that killed millions more innocent individuals.After the year of mass starvation, the genocide continued for several more years with the further destruction of Ukraine’s political leadership, the resettlement of Ukraine’s depopulated areas with other ethnic groups, the prosecution of those who dared to speak of the famine publicly, and the consistent blatant denial of famine by the Soviet regime.CollectivizationBy mid 1932, nearly 75 percent of the farms in the Ukraine had been forcibly collectivized.Wth the opening of Soviet archives to public, Soviet direction of the “famine” undeniable. In a December 1932 directive, Communist officials ordered regions placed on the “black list” to endure the “immediate cessation of delivery of goods” and the “complete suspension of cooperative and state trade,” including “farm trade.” The abundant crops Ukraine had produced were requisitioned or sometimes left to rot. Soldiers ransacked whole villages for their edible goods before blockading their residents and denying them the right to buy food.On Stalin's orders, mandatory quotas of foodstuffs to be shipped out to the Soviet Union were drastically increased in August, October and again in January 1933. Small stockpiles of supplies were unable to feed the already starving people of the Ukraine.A corpse of a Famine Victimon the streets of Kharkiv, 1933 (1933 Ukrainian Famine Photos from Ammnede's 1936 'Human Life in Russia'.)Much of the hugely abundant wheat crop harvested by the Ukrainians that year was dumped on the foreign market to generate cash to aid Stalin's Five Year Plan for the modernization of the Soviet Union and also to help finance his massive military buildup. If the wheat had remained in the Ukraine, it was estimated to have been enough to feed all of the people there for up to two years.Holodomor (Ukraine) " World Without Genocide -Ukrainian Communists urgently appealed to Moscow for a reduction in the grain quotas and also asked for emergency food aid. Stalin responded by denouncing them and rushed in over 100,000 fiercely loyal Russian soldiers to purge the Ukrainian Communist Party. The Soviets then sealed off the borders of the Ukraine, preventing any food from entering, in effect turning the country into a gigantic concentration camp.Soviet police troops inside the Ukraine also went house to house seizing any stored up food, leaving farm families without a morsel. All food was considered to be the "sacred" property of the State. Anyone caught stealing State property, even an ear of corn or stubble of wheat, could be shot or imprisoned for not less than ten years.Starvation quickly ensued throughout the Ukraine, with the most vulnerable, children and the elderly, first feeling the effects of malnutrition. The once-smiling young faces of children vanished forever amid the constant pain of hunger. It gnawed away at their bellies, which became grossly swollen, while their arms and legs became like sticks as they slowly starved to death.Ukrainian refugees from the 1932-33 famine (Commentary: Ukraine's Never-Ending Trauma)Mothers in the countryside sometimes tossed their emaciated children onto passing railroad cars traveling toward cities such as Kiev in the hope someone there would take pity. But in the cities, children and adults who had already flocked there from the countryside were dropping dead in the streets, with their bodies carted away in horse-drawn wagons to be dumped in mass graves. Occasionally, people lying on the sidewalk who were thought to be dead, but were actually still alive, were also carted away and buried.Survival was a moral as well as a physical struggle. A woman doctor wrote to a friend in June 1933 that she had not yet become a cannibal, but was “not sure that I shall not be one by the time my letter reaches you.” The good people died first. Those who refused to steal or to prostitute themselves died. Those who gave food to others died. Those who refused to eat corpses died. Those who refused to kill their fellow man died. Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did.While police and Communist Party officials remained quite well fed, desperate Ukrainians ate leaves off bushes and trees, killed dogs, cats, frogs, mice and birds then cooked them. Others, gone mad with hunger, resorted to cannibalism, with parents sometimes even eating their own children.Ukraine Democracy InitiativeMeanwhile, nearby Soviet-controlled granaries were said to be bursting at the seams from huge stocks of 'reserve' grain, which had not yet been shipped out of the Ukraine. In some locations, grain and potatoes were piled in the open, protected by barbed wire and armed GPU guards who shot down anyone attempting to take the food. Farm animals, considered necessary for production, were allowed to be fed, while the people living among them had absolutely nothing to eat.At the time of the Holodomor, journalists, diplomats, and other observers could only guess at the numbers of victims, and estimates varied from 1.5 to over 10 million. Officially, the Soviet government denied that the famine occurred, and death records could not list starvation as a cause death. Later, scholars were hampered by such falsified and inaccessible records and by the criminalization of famine memory.As many as 25,000 people died every day during the famine. Initial estimates of the death toll by scholars and government officials vary greatly. In the first large-scale academic study of the famine, the 1986 Harvest of Despair, Robert Conquest estimated 5 million deaths from famine for the period 1932-33 in Ukraine. More recently, demographers with better access to records and with the latest acceptable demographic methods have estimated that specifically for the years 1932-1934, specifically within the borders of Soviet Ukraine, nearly 4 million people died of famine related causes (not counting average annual deaths.) Adding the unborn to this total yields 4.5 million.What is especially shocking is how such a great number of people succumbed over a very brief period of time: 2 million persons in just 3 months: May-July 1933; 28,000 per day in June of 1933.  According to higher estimates, up to 12 million ethnic Ukrainians were said to have perished as a result of the famine. A U.N. joint statement signed by 25 countries in 2003 declared that 7–10 million perished.In the former Soviet Union millions of men, women and children fell victims to the cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime. The Great Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), which took from 7 million to 10 million innocent lives and became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people. ... as a result of civil war and forced collectivization, leaving deep scars in the consciousness of future generations. ... we deplore the acts and policies that brought about mass starvation and death of millions of people. We do not want to settle scores with the past, it could not be changed, but we are convinced that exposing violations of human rights, preserving historical records and restoring the dignity of victims through acknowledgement of their suffering, will guide future societies and help to avoid similar catastrophes in the future. ...Research has since narrowed the estimates to between 3.3 and 7.5 million. According to the findings of the Court of Appeal of Kiev, in 2010, the demographic losses due to the famine amounted to 10 million, with 3.9 million direct famine deaths, and a further 6.1 million birth deficit.As far as the Soviet Union was concerned, the death of around four million Ukrainians was either propaganda or mass delusion. During the Holodomor, Ukraine was essentially isolated from the world, as borders remained sealed. The Western world didn’t know the full extent of the famine and genocide until it was too late. The few survivors who managed to escape Ukraine after the famine compiled their stories into an archive that was immediately dismissed.Denial of the famine by Soviet authorities was echoed at the time of the famine by some prominent Western journalists, like Walter Duranty.“Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”(as reported by the New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer-prize winner Walter Duranty)The Soviet Union adamantly refused any outside assistance because the regime officially denied that there was any famine. Anyone claiming the contrary was accused of spreading anti-Soviet propaganda. Outside the Soviet Union, Western governments adopted a passive attitude toward the famine, although most of them had become aware of the true suffering in Ukraine through confidential diplomatic channels.Josef Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt atthe Tehran Conference, 1943 (On This Day: United States and Soviet Union Establish Diplomatic Relations)In fact, in November 1933, the United States, under newly elected president Franklin D. Roosevelt, chose to formally recognize Stalin’s Communist government and also negotiated a sweeping new trade agreement. The following year, the pattern of denial in the West culminated with the admission of the Soviet Union into the League of Nations. Stalin’s Five-Year Plans for the modernization of the Soviet Union depended largely on the purchase of massive amounts of manufactured goods and technology from Western nations. Those nations were unwilling to disrupt lucrative trade agreements with the Soviet Union in order to pursue the matter of the famine.It wasn’t until the anniversary of the famine in 1983 that Western scholars began to look more closely at the events of the Holodomor. Even then, denial was rampant. It was endlessly debated whether the Holodomor had been a conscious attack on the Ukraine or just a consequence of policy gone wrong.In 1988, American historian James Mace compiled volumes of information on the Holodomor that finally forced people to confront the reality of this tragic occurrence in Ukraine’s history. Although the Holodomor could no longer be dismissed as a fabrication of Ukrainian refugees, the millions of Ukrainian deaths from the famine were only written into the history books after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.In Soviet Ukraine, of course, the Holodomor was kept out of official discourse until the late 1980’s, shortly before Ukraine won its independence in 1991. With the fall of the Soviet Union, previously inaccessible archives, as well as the long suppressed oral testimony of Holodomor survivors living in Ukraine, have yielded massive evidence offering incontrovertible proof of Ukraine’s tragic famine genocide of the 1930’s.On November 28th 2006, the Parliament of Ukraine passed a decree defining the Holodomor as a deliberate Act of Genocide. Although the Russian government continues to call Ukraine’s depiction of the famine a “one-sided falsification of history,” it is recognized as genocide by approximately two dozen nations, and is now the focus of considerable international research and documentation.The first thing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich did after his February 25 2010 inauguration was delete the link to the Holodomor on the president’s official Web site.  Yanukovich’s predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, had made the Holodomor—the famine of 1932–33 produced by Joseph Stalin and responsible for the deaths of millions of Ukrainian peasants—into a national issue, promoting what Czech novelist Milan Kundera famously called “the struggle of memory over forgetting” as part of his attempt to move the country toward democracy. That Yanukovich turned his back so dramatically on this movement to rehabilitate Ukraine’s tragic past indicated the extent to which the recent election was as much about identity as it was about politics.As recent as 2017, the Russian government continues to deny the extent of the Holodomor and their role in creating a policy driven famine and genocide.In 2017, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told the international press that the Ukrainian government’s use of the phrase “the genocide of Ukrainians” is “politically charged” and “contradicts historical facts.”Furthermore, the U.S. State Department’s statement calling the Holodomor a “Soviet-manufactured tragedy” allegedly “disparaged the memory of the victims of that famine who belonged to other ethnic groups.” She described the Holodomor as merely the result of “severe drought and forced [farm] collectivization” which “hit Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Volga region, the North Caucasus, West Siberia and the South Urals.” Thus, Zakharova perfectly illustrated why the State Department condemned “efforts to deny it as a historical fact.”Footnotes Holodomor Remembrance Day: Why the Past Matters for the Future Russia still denies the Holodomor was ‘genocide’ Holodomor - Wikipedia Memory, Conflict and New Media The Ukrainian Crisis: In Russia's Long Shadow The Ukrainian Revolution of 1917 and why it matters for historians of the Russian revolution(s) | The Hunt for Ukraine’s Toppled Lenin Statues Ukrainian War of Independence - Wikipedia https://www.jstor.org/stable/41035958?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents The first man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine 1921-1923 (11/06/88) Eyewitness Accounts The first man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine 1921-1923 (11/06/88) The 'Law' of Diminishing Returns http://acienciala.faculty.ku.edu/communistnationssince1917/ch3.html Collectivization in the USSR: How the Russian peasantry was smashed Genocide in the 20th Century: Stalin's Forced Famine 1932-33 Liquidation of the Kulaks Depression Stalinism: The Great Break Reconsidered Stalin in Control SOVIET GENOCIDE IN UKRAINE Why the deadly famine occurred, or comprehending the Ukrainian Holodomor Red Famine by Anne Applebaum review – did Stalin deliberately let Ukraine starve?  Holodomor 1932-33: Famine genocide in Ukraine Information website Grain problem 100 years of false religion Holodomor (Ukraine) " World Without Genocide - The Results of the First Five-Year Plan The Ukrainian Week Seven million died in the 'forgotten' holocaust Devastation Grappling With Holodomor https://www.jstor.org/stable/23611464?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents Grappling With Holodomor From The Archive: Famine Survivors Recall Horrors https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.economics-sociology.eu/files/14_20_Nefedov.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwjyq8WokN3fAhUixoMKHXT9CjAQFjALegQIBhAB&usg=AOvVaw1ATmUDHFFgYurWLMtP1l5b Holodomor: The Secret Holocaust in Ukraine Holocaust by hunger: The truth behind Stalin's Great Famine So how many Ukrainians died in the Holodomor? | 'HARVEST OF DESPAIR' BARES SOVIET POLICIES, INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL, FOR WHAT THEY ARE Commentary: Ukraine's Never-Ending Trauma So how many Ukrainians died in the Holodomor? | http://Wheatcroft, Stephen G. (2001a). "Current knowledge of the level and nature of mortality in the Ukrainian famine of 1931–3" (PDF).  http://repository.un.org/bitstream/handle/11176/246001/A_C.3_58_9-EN.pdf http://Snyder, Timothy (2010). Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. London: The Bodley Head.  http://Rosefielde, Steven (1983). "Excess Mortality in the Soviet Union: A Reconsideration of the Demographic Consequences of Forced Industrialization, 1929–1949". Soviet Studies. 35(3): 385–409.  Holodomor: World Reaction, Propaganda and the Media How Stalin Hid Ukraine's Famine From the World Commentary: Ukraine's Never-Ending Trauma New York Times Statement About 1932 Pulitzer Prize Awarded to Walter Duranty | The New York Times Company Holodomor - RationalWiki Education - Holodomor Research and Education Consortium 'Roosevelt and Stalin' details the surprisingly warm relationship of an unlikely duo USSR joins the League of Nations 83 years ago: The Soviet Union joined the League of Nations USSR joins the League of Nations Deleting the Holodomor: Ukraine Unmakes Itself Holodomor (Ukraine) " World Without Genocide - Historian Anne Applebaum Details Stalin's War Against Ukraine: 'I Believe It Was Genocide' http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/28/AR2006112800658_pf.html History, Identity and Holodomor Denial: Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine | EUROMAIDAN PRESS Deleting the Holodomor: Ukraine Unmakes Itself Deleting the Holodomor: Ukraine Unmakes Itself Marking the 84th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor
What facts about the United States do foreigners not believe until they come to America?
I am from Hong Kong, and most of the time I lived in a suburb. The typical American suburb. The time I was there is the early 00s.There are a few things that I still remember clearly although it was quite some time ago.1. Many people know the Americans are at the top of the list of energy consumed per capita in the world. I have to live the American way of life to know how they could consume that much energy.The vehicle and the engine volume (those full size pickup and SUV, think about the gas mileage), the washing machine, dryer, fridge - all of them are double the size, so the power used is double, I think.The water heater is on 24/7, but the total time you use it daily is maybe less than 2 hours. Impossible thing to happen in Hong Kong, and HK is affluent. We have much smaller water heater and only turn it on when we use it.The shopping malls and the supermarkets are, again, huge like a football field, but there really aren't many people in it. There were a few times I went to the 24 hours Walmart Supercenter at 3 am (yeah, that's what college kids do). There were maybe just less than 20 people shopping in there. Think about the power required for the air conditioning and heat.I did enjoy the American way of life, the vast open space and convenience very much, yet it may not be the most efficient way of using the energy.2. The average American is really bad in math and simple calculation. I heard it before I came. You would only believe it when seeing it first hand.I am talking about simple calculation like multiplying or dividing numbers, such as calculating the discount. There were more than a few times that I was shopping and saw that the cashier had trouble doing simple calculations that any normal 8 year old in HK should be able to do within seconds.I didn't major in anything technical in college because my math was bad when I was in HK. There was one Statistics class I took that gave me another chance to see the typical American math level. Strictly speaking, statistics isn't really math if you compare it to algebra or geometry or that kind of stuff. There were simple formulas and equations that we needed to use. (I don't remember exactly what they were, but remembered it was material that I learned in grade 9 back home and if you can't do it, you shouldn't have graduated high school.) The professor showed the students how to do it step by step, and some people seemed to have trouble doing it.I wasn't in Harvard or any Ivy League school. I just went to a state school that was described as the most selective in the state; how could their math be that bad?3. Melting pot. This is a term that I saw again and again before I come to the States, and I found it's not anything like what I thought.Yes, you see lots of different ethnicities. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian; but all in their own neighborhoods, social circles, and cultures. There aren't many blended together. You rarely see a mix of them. Most of the time, you only see them in their own group in the campus and out there. What's more interesting was, even amongst "Chinese", you see different groups. My college is in upstate NY so almost 70% of students were from NYC and Long Island. There were a lot of Asian and Chinese. This really opened up my eyes as Hong Kong is predominantly 90% Cantonese. There are the ABC, Cantonese immigrants from mainland, immigrants from HK, graduate students and immigrants from Northern China who speak Mandarin, the Taiwanese. Not to mention within Asian there are the Korean and Japanese who are in their own groups. It is true that it's very diverse, but where is the "melting" part of it?4. Technology for the normal American in daily life is way behind.The US has been the superpower since WWII and has the most advanced technology, including weapons, aerospace, medical, and natural science etc. Basically, it leads the whole world. Yet, when I was there, walking around in RadioShack, Wal-mart, and in the mall, my jaw dropped. They were selling cassettes? The last time I saw people using those in Hong Kong was in the early 90's. I also saw some stereo players and electrical appliances that I thought were 10 to 15 years behind. Another thing that struck me was how the NYC subway didn't update their technology and keep pace with the rest of the developed world. That metro card was a product of the 80's. America certainly have all the resources to update their technology. Therefore it is totally unimaginable for foreigners that America leads the world in advanced technology, yet leaves all these small towns, suburbs and the average American living like time stands still.5. Regional differences are huge, in terms of friendliness of people, crime, economic development level and wealth.For any foreigner, the way they know about America is from Hollywood movies, TV sitcoms, and tourists coming to our country. So it is quite normal for us to think America as a whole is like that, which is obviously not the case. I resided in a small town and people there are very friendly. They were the nicest people I ever got to know (people in HK are generally rude and not that friendly to strangers). When I got to travel around and went to NYC, that was a totally different "dynamic" there. The ways people interact and drive were a big contrast to what I saw in small towns. I had American friends who were from small towns tell me they were afraid to drive in NYC because most drivers there won't let you cut into their lanes (so true!). My friend from NYC warned me that you need to put your bags and personal belongings in your trunk when your car was parked in NYC, while I never needed to do that in my town.Other than big metro areas, I also traveled to the more rural regions. I saw motels with big neon signs that wrote "TV and Air-conditioning". Is that a feature of motels in the 60's or 70's? I drove across the middle of nowhere in Montana and filled the gas at a place like this.What does that tell you? It seems that region didn't have much development for 30 or 40 years? I don't know. I am no history buff.I also noticed there were quite some homeless people and beggars in the big metro areas while I rarely saw that in small towns or suburbs.What surprised me even more was some of them can speak Mandarin! How about that?I was inside Port Authority of Manhattan, waiting for transfer of Greyhound bus to DC. That was my first trip (2 months after semester started) in the States, and first time to NYC. A black guy approached me, smiling, said "How are you?" in close to perfect Mandarin and shook my hand. I stayed in a small town and everyone was so nice. Americans all smile at strangers. I had no idea that he was a beggar. I replied "Hello" in Mandarin. Then he asked "are you Chinese? you have any change or quarters?" I didn't know what to do. Then two cops noticed and came saying "leave this man alone".Then I thought, "man, NYC is really a tough place to make a living, even beggars need to be nice and pick up some foreign languages."All these experiences let me know there isn't one America. This is a huge country with lots of different facets.6. Guns, violence, and crime are not as serious as the media depicted.The US is quite famous for this in the world and it is a hot topic in America. I know quite a few people here in HK who have never been to the States and choose not to study in the US because they think the US is so dangerous (not to mention immigration). They said they would never live in a country where people have guns. They think everyone owns guns and you don't know when there will be some massacre by some crazy psycho. Throughout my 4 years of staying there, I really don't feel that I'm in danger or see any guns around. This is probably because I stayed in a suburb. NYC or some of the metro areas may be a bit more dangerous. I know quite a few people from NYC who had some experience of being robbed. It's definitely not as safe as in Hong Kong, one of the safest cities in the world, but it's really not like whenever people are not happy they just shoot each other with guns.7. Basketball and the NBA isn't really that popular in America.I was surprised that not many people followed it closely. It was very popular in East Asia, especially the era of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Most high school kids, including me, back home were crazy about it. I later found out the NBA only ranked number 3 or 4 in the professional sports in America. It is the NFL and MLB that draw the most crowds.8. Many American don't have a passport, and therefore have never traveled out of the country.Probably because Hong Kong is so small and there isn't really much to see, when it's vacation, the airports are packed with locals going to Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, etc for vacation. It's just a 3 to 5 hour flight. I later realized that America is so big and diverse that traveling within it is enough to bring you lots of different experience.9. It is common amongst the Chinese to think the people in the Western world (including American) don't have taboos, but the truth is they just have different taboos from us.I was one of those Chinese. Generally, Chinese, especially the elderly, are quite superstitious about anything related to death and ghosts. It is more or less a taboo to talk about it. We even have another word for that in certain circumstances to avoid mentioning the words. After staying in the States for a while, I found that they also have taboos. The first one is race and racial relations. People generally don't talk about it, or only talk about it with their true views when there is no presence of other ethnicities. I worked as a research assistant in a lab that I was the only Asian and they were all white. I was lucky enough to hear their views. I didn't know why. Maybe I didn't talk a lot most of the time but just listened and they forgot I was there.The other taboo is fat. It is like a sin to say to someone, "you are fat" or, "it looks like you gain lots of weight lately", even though that is nothing but the truth. I was lucky enough not to make this mistake as I heard from the conversation within other people. How "unreal" are their comments on the body type of that person. Then I knew. The Chinese don't have this "fat" taboo at all. The other difference is sex. The Chinese usually don't talk about it openly while the American are quite comfortable discussing it.As I had more and more interactions with the American, I realized that amongst different cultures they all looks very different at the beginning. However, when you look deeper, they are all quite the same. The forms and shapes may look different. The content inside is somehow the same. After all, we are all human beings.10. I knew Bruce Lee, the martial artist, is famous, but I couldn't believe how famous Bruce Lee is in America until I was there.When I introduced myself, this happened quite often.Me: I'm Bruce, and I'm from Hong Kong.Him/her: Don't tell me your last name is LeeMe: Yes I am, my last name is LiHim/her: No way! yea, I'm Janet Jackson (if that lady was Black)OrHim/her: Bruce Lee!?! you are Bruce Lee? I don't believe you.I needed to show them my ID to show my name is really Bruce Li.
What do you think about illiterate peoples?
You asked: “What do you think about illiterate peoples?”As you can see in the various definitions listed in Dictionary.com - The world’s favorite online dictionary! there are several levels and kinds of illiteracy.unable to read and write: an illiterate group.2. having or demonstrating very little or no education.3. showing lack of culture, especially in language and literature.4. displaying a marked lack of knowledge in a particular fieldWith respect to definition #3 (above) I discovered that in China I could be considered illiterate. I fact I would be completely illiterate since I cannot read the Chinese character set, so I can not even read a menu or a street sign, so I qualify under definition #1 as well. I know nothing about their history. I couldn’t even name any of the 5 most important people in the world (living or from history), I know nothing about their literature, their cultural traditions, holidays and only a vague familiarity with styles in Chinese art. Since my entire education in the Chinese language was 6 days of lessons, once a week for 6 weeks, that makes me illiterate on the basis of definition #2 as well. Do I want to learn more? Yes, I do.The same could be said about Slovenia of which I know even less. I would not last a week if it were not for the kindness of the peoples there, as in most places. If I stumble upon the police (in either place) I would likely be locked up as spy because I an not completely illiterate when it comes to English.But you may have noticed I did not hit upon definition #4.The American education system was built around a minimal standard of local knowledge which happened to include math (to be able to carry on farming and commerce) and reading (so you would be able to write a list of supplies you needed or other practical purposes). Girls often didn’t get to go to school at all, they were taught sewing, cooking and cleaning and raising babies by their own mothers and not much more. School ended for both boys and girls who were lucky enough to go after 7th grade, although the relatively comprehensive knowledge imparted was about equivalent to a good student getting a high school diploma in today’s American school system (without all the modern science, of course, nor much of science that was known at the time, either).There are vast populations for whom literacy could be of little practical use, farmers or nomadic tribes who rarely interact with anyone except their neighbors might be an example, but some have been told, often by their own parents and family, or by their ruling class and government that reading it not important, and again, of nearly no importance for girls. Indeed even if free education is readily available it is too expensive for the parents to not have the children help out in whatever business they run, or just to earn extra income so the family can eat. Extreme poverty is one of the most devastating conditions that act against escaping a life of illiteracy. People in this category are victims of society’s problems. They meet definitions #1 and #2.What is considered, by Americans at least, to be a pretty good education (a high school diploma) is actually failing a great number of students through what is known as “social promotion”. Social promotion is a policy that allows students who refuse to do the work of actually learning anything are passed on to the next grade with their age peers regardless of their actual performance and what would be failing grades. The idea behind this, as far as I know (which often is not very much) was based on the concept that if teachers could not motivate these students to learn, that peer pressure would. It doesn’t work.But even a pretty good student with A’s or 4.0 marks in every course will know nothing about Mozart or Beethoven except their names (band and choir students excepted here). If you throw names like Tintoretto or Botticelli at them they think those are brands of spaghetti or pasta sauce. Opera or ballet; nothing. (Heck, I studied ballet as a dancer and I know nearly nothing about the history or the greats of contemporary ballet.) Sadly, if people have not developed a very well rounded appreciation of culture, they remain culturally illiterate for their entire lives. Sports are another matter. Chances are good that most American high school graduate can name all the teams in the league whether the league. NHL, NFL, AFL, PAC10, Professional Baseball, NBA, WNBA (okay, maybe not the WNBA, not just because men discount women’s sports, although they do, but also because the level of play is barely equal to women’s college basketball) and more. And of course most members or former members of the British Commonwealth can name the top cricket teams. Football (Americans call it soccer) is extremely well known in much of the world, too. But sports, by themselves are an extremely narrow portion of “culture”. As mentioned above literate also specifically means a knowledge of language and literature. Billions of people use no more than about 500 different words in a month. They have no command of their own language. Authors names mean nothing to these people too. Mark Twain might have been on the high school curriculum,but not outside of America and Canada. Shakespeare is dreaded because most don’t understand the Renaissance version of English and are not willing to take the time or effort to learn. French authors, Swedish writers, Japanese poets are virtually never mentioned. Most people, in most places are culturally ignorant. Culturally illiterate. They fit definition #3 very well.And without having acquired a taste for the arts and culture generally by the time they leave high school, students concentrate on a narrower and narrower field of interest as their college and graduate studies progress. Sadly even graduates with advanced degrees like medicine or law are only slightly more likely to develop a real hunger for arts, literature and cultural activities. It has become almost impossible to be well informed on every subject. America, like most democratic societies, elects delegates to be their representative in government and in law making. That does not excuse voters from being informed about issues, and more particularly, something about opposing views and positions as well.As one of the founding fathers of America as a country, and a wise man among them, Benjamin Franklin said: "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education."As I just pointed out, “It has become almost impossible to be well informed on every subject.” But out legislative representative in both the House and Senate have a responsibility to be very well informed on any topic that may arise with respect to new legislation or issues of government funding including tax incentives to steer the economy in publicly beneficial directions. Normally a person is not needed to be familiar with sub-atomic physics, but a Senator, voting on a bill the funds an American version of a large hadron collider that would be similar to the multi-billion dollar one in Europe had better understand what benefits or lack thereof would come from building one in Nebraska (other than making Senator Grassley happy). Similarly the same Senator should be informed about both long and short term benefits of relaxing standards for particulate emissions from electric generating plants. Turning a blind eye to science in favor of the electric and coal industries and their massively deep pockets (of coal and lobbying money which will doubtless find its way into campaign funding for this hypothetical Senator). Legislators almost never actually read the legislation on which they are voting (shocking but true). They have staff that researches the subject and summaries key provisions, but if, for example, a change in factory effluent that has little or no effect on the Senator’s state might accumulate to toxicity of fatal concentrations in slow running waters in the next state downstream. If the legislation already fits with the Senator’s party’s legislative agenda, chances are good that the aides will not mention that fact resulting in the Senator being “illiterate” as fits the definition #4 . She or he may be a brilliant and talented lawyer, but with the moving target of subjects on which that representative needs not to be illiterate, it happens more often that not. “Illiterate” happens too because the level or intelligence or education of the person who needs to understand complex information may just not be capable of grasping the facts in a meaningful way. Of course, the same is true of high level executives in almost all industries.So, to conclude this lengthy discussion, there are many kinds of illiteracy, none of which are good. Some of them can be resolved by good policy and focused effort to solve the problem. Others types of ignorance are almost unavoidable, although electing the smarter of any two candidates rather than the one with the nicer smile who follows his party’s position might be a major step in the direction of eliminating on major “pothole” on the way toward less illiteracy, including improving educational policy and funding.It has been a long read to get this far in this article. I hope it has caused a few people to think. Please pass your opinions to others. It is an important subject.Sincerely,Stafford “Doc” Williamson
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