Cullah’s new music video has me delightful. It’s not secret that his Cullahsus album was a banger and is in the running to be my favorite album of the year. 2018 was a fantastic year for music. Marci Klugiewiez’s interpretation of Cullah’s new song “I See” added new layers of emotional value through narration and inventive interactions with the song. This music video makes you want a relationship with the music instead of a one-night stand.
When I watched this video for the first time, I could feel a grin spreading from ear to ear as I leaned forward with giddiness. My chair creaked below me. I felt the hair raise on my arms and on the back of my neck. Then I repeated the song. The banjo grabbed me, and the stop-motion family of bears kept me there. Marci has been going to MIAD, an art school in downtown Milwaukee and used a combination of heavy paper, markers, and colored pencils improved with a smattering of photoshop for the eyes.
This north woods vocalist didn’t take a minute to grab my attention. Synth and the banjo work together to explore the periphery of sound. “I See” became more than a fantastic song, it became a dynamic odyssey into the turbulence of uncertainty. In a year dominated by great sound, “I See” stop motion video stood out.
Capturing the attention of a nation, Roe v. Wade was a landmark decision that has shaped judicial power and personal rights since its 1973 ruling. The 7-2 Supreme Court decision found that a woman’s right to privacy extended to their ability to seek an abortion. Such a decision was then determined to be one that should be made between a woman and her physician. In 2014, an estimated 650,000 abortions were performed and understanding the reasons and ramifications of seeking an abortion is important to a larger discussion of reproductive rights and autonomy. A controversial subject, abortion is a nuanced issue that intersects law, religion, ethics, health, and more with the individual. The ruling was crucial in defining modern feminism as it established the one of the movement’s goals. Though reproductive rights and abortion were central issues for early second wave feminists, this was not always the case for all women activists.
To gage the full scope of abortion opinions, it is important to feature the voices of all individuals including often marginalized women. Such an emphasis may further complicate the issue but it is essential to advancing discourse as well as helping dispel assumptions that all women hold the same opinions. In focusing on Milwaukee Latinas post-Roe, a specific location and population is considered to understand individual’s attitudes. Throughout the 20th century, Milwaukee Latinas navigated multiple worlds and roles as they aimed to satisfy the needs of others and themselves. That said, the personal often remained private and Latinas focused their activist efforts in areas beyond issues of reproduction. Despite the goals of the larger women’s movement, Milwaukee Latinas forged their own activism aimed at the specific needs of their community given local events, circumstances, and cultural expectations.
Though local Latinas did not place an explicit focus on abortion rights, polling has recorded the abortion attitudes of Latinas and the nation at large. While public opinion is often classified as either ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice’, the reality is much more nuanced. National polls in the years following Roe v. Wade have found that most Americans support some form of abortion. However, these opinions are often situational and more people are accepting of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and when pregnancy endangers a mother life. Elective abortions on demand have often had the least amount of support throughout widespread public polls. However, there can be a variety of reasons for an individual’s stance on abortion. Within the Latinx community, attitudes have varied depending on nationality with Mexicans being the least willing to approve of abortions. That said, overall approval post-Roe was somewhat lower compared to non-Hispanic Whites but higher than African-Americans. However, Latinas have a higher rate of abortion with some suggesting this is due to a reliance on less effective contraception and more frequent pregnancies.
Within the state of Wisconsin, abortion was not legal until 1971, but this did not prevent women from seeking the procedure. Prior to legalization, women would often travel to states with legalized abortion to ensure a safe procedure. Networks were established to facilitate a women’s trip to New York or other states. However, the procedure and travel fees could often exceed several hundred dollars, making a safe, legal abortion difficult or impossible for working class women to acquire. Faced with the reality of the price and extent of travel, some women elected for risky, illegal but close to home and often cheaper abortions. Exhausting these options, others carried their pregnancy to term.
That said, organizations such as Planned Parenthood were present in the Latinx community to assist in other ways. Planned Parenthood established itself in Milwaukee in the 1960s with most early clients being married, middle-class White women. It later established traveling clinics to service several communities as they began noting the needs of low-income areas for quality health care and family planning assistance to alleviate poverty. However, since abortion was not yet legal, the organization only provided contraception and family planning counseling to married couples.
The proposal to establish such clinics created a public dialogue chronicled in letters to Wisconsin Secretary of State Vel Phillips. Archived in her files on these clinics and later abortion bills is various letters from community members, theologians, and organization leaders. These letters reflect Milwaukee’s need for such services and their benefits for the city and individuals. Acknowledging the limited access to downtown clinics, county hospitals, as well as the effects of family size on those in poverty, these correspondences signify a complex grasp of the topic at hand and it ramifications. Yet, there appear to be none from those who identified themselves as Latina. Some allude to this lack of voices from within the affected communities as they state their privileged positions as advocates. Though Latinas may not have been advocating to politicians directly, they were still involved with other Latinos.
According the 1970 census, a low estimate of the Milwaukee Latinx population was about four thousand, with actual demographics believed to be over ten thousand. Mexicans made up sixty-five percent of the area with most of them coming from Texas and identifying as Chicanos. The rest of the area was majority Puerto Rican with a smaller Caribbean, South, and Central American population. In addition to national ties, the Latinx community is one also defined by location. Much of the population resided in and around the south side Walker’s Point neighbor located between Florida St. and Lapham St. and 1st and 16th St, with some extending these boundaries to 37th St. and Oklahoma Ave.
In comparison to the rest of Milwaukee, the Latinx community differed from the rest of the area in several ways. Milwaukee historian John Gurda’s research indicated that South Side residents, on average, were majority working class, bilingual and had less education completed and larger households. There was also a distinct generation gap between older immigrants and their younger, American-born children. This latter group soon became those most active in social movements and local groups. Gurda stated that almost twenty percent of the area lived below the poverty line. As a result, issues such as jobs, education, and child care became central to the community.
Gurda also mentions a growing leniency towards religious observation. Perhaps influenced by American Catholics, religiosity seemed to begin to wane around this time among Latinos. However, it was still seen as the responsibility of women to uphold religious traditions. This may include ensuring regular church attendance, organizing church-related functions, and continuing other established traditions within the home. This indicates not only the influence of Latinas within the domestic sphere but also the significance placed on maintaining cultural norms.
However, the decline in religiosity is notable as the Latinx community at large tends to be associated with strong religious ties to Catholicism. Though still a component of cultural identity, religion carried less weight than once assumed. In addition, individuals appeared to distance their religiosity from their public opinions. For example, in Vel Phillips correspondences, there are several religious leaders who make sure to note that their views are not necessarily that of the church. In identifying as private citizens, these individual’s separate portions of their identity to explain their stance. In fact, several studies have found that religious individuals are willing to defy church doctrine for personal or situational reasons. Take for instance the widespread use of contraception amongst Catholics despite it being condemned by the church.
Distinctions between an institution and the individual are common and Latinas are no exception. One California Chicana, Alisia documented her religious upbringing and reproductive choices in Sumi Hoshiko’s Our Choices: Women’s Personal Decisions About Abortion. Elaborating on her childhood, she notes the significance of family, the Catholic church, and a good value system enforced by her mother. In regards to the church, she credits it with instilling within her a respect of kin and elders. In fact, she viewed her familia [family] as the focus of her personal life and professional work. She also attended Catholic schools for several years and states that its teachings were not something she could disregard with ease. This prefaces her explanation for seeking two abortions during her life. While she had grown to view her spirituality as more informal and personal, she still felt a sense of religious guilt stating that, “Oh my god, me castiga Dios [God is punishing me] you know?” Considering herself a good mother, Alisia refers to this role in explaining her decisions. Having already had four children, Alisia felt she could not support another child at the time. By limiting her family size, she could continue to support her children and lessen her fear of being unable to provide.
Within the local Latinx community, the power of family is present and it served as a powerful influencer to all, including activists. It appears that Latinx activism was rooted in interpersonal relationships and coalition building within the community. Movements which were most associated with family and community wellbeing took precedent over the area. For example, education was a major topic of discussion for local leaders. Advocacy for quality schools, bilingual education, and access to higher education was based on it benefits to one and their family. A good education meant better jobs and a better quality of life.
This activism is best exemplified at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where student demonstrations in response to discrimination, little university support, and a general lack of representation shaped local Latinx thinking. The movement made headlines and resulted in the development of various programs and service centers for underrepresented students. With only twelve Latinx students enrolled at the university in 1970, efforts to increase enrollment and student support systems were established by the School of Education. However, this initiative was more appropriate for top university administrators to implement. Through sit-ins, walkouts, and petitions, activists led by Roberto Hernandez helped found the Spanish Speaker Outreach Institute in 1970.
During the same time, the university’s Feminist Center had made reproductive rights a central issue and structured their activism around women’s issues. As previous research has indicated, the more educated one is, the more accepting one may be of a contentious issue such as abortion. There is little evidence of Latinas being involved with the group’s community outreach. It is however possible that Latina students were involved and interested in the work done by the center but felt that there was a choice to be made between supporting women’s rights or Latinx rights. Later student groups on health, pro-choice, and pro-life ideologies were established but appeared to still lack Latina participation. While university students have some of the most relaxed abortion attitudes, events such as those UW-Milwaukee may have pushed these discussions to the backburner for Latinas. Also, due to the already low enrollment of Latinx students in general, there may have been few Latinas at the institution. However, this conflict of identities and support has been present in other social movements as women have dealt with supporting all the aspects of their identity.
The participation of Latinas within activist circles is a complicated one with women often doing valuable work while not receiving the proper respect or accolades. Also, many did not receive formal training or even identify as activists. However, through their actions to help others and mobilize a community, one could consider these women activists. Latina political participation has been found to be based on more informal, social coalition building as opposed to a traditional focus on voting. This may be due to cultural influences that limit formal political participation and enforce gender roles. Also, emphasizing voting ignores the potential power of undocumented and disenfranchised individuals. Latinas approach to activism tends to be based on equality and community compared to Latino men. Thus, Latinas are less concerned with nationality as they focus on broader Latinx connections.
Latinas were involved in almost all sectors of activism and many founded organizations aimed and increasing educational opportunities and improving community health. In promoting health initiatives and local centers, family planning was only a small portion of the services Latinas helped support. In addition to Planned Parenthood, other organizations functioned to address reproductive health, preventative care, and child care. Furthermore, with a sizable portion of the population living below the poverty line, access to jobs and fair wages was another focus for activists. In addition to participating in labor movements, several Latinas founded professional development and skill building groups.
However, some community members expressed frustrations with regulatory systems in place that seemed to hinder their efforts. For instance, some day cares struggled to provide necessary assistance as they faced social and political hardships. Serving low-income families, some of whom received welfare assistance, many day cares struggled to provide adequate care and maintain their facilities. Also, municipal and federal regulations determined where and for how long children could be in these centers. Meant to protect children, community members argued that lawmakers, who were majority elite males, were out of touch and incapable of comprehending the daily realities of working-class families. There is also a mention of the social stigma associated with welfare. Citing political rhetoric of “get mothers to work” and “pulling yourself up by your boot straps”, child care leaders discussed the assumptions made about those receiving public assistance. Regarding mothers and their work, activists asserted that motherhood is work and should be valued as such.
In more radical circles, many of the same issues were discussed through a more revolutionary lens. These smaller pockets of activists were often inspired by similar movements around the country. For instance, elsewhere, the west coast saw Chicana feminism bloom amongst student leaders. The discourse of Chicana feminism reached Milwaukee through publications such as La Guardia and The Young Lord as well as word of mouth. In this development, Chicanas and Latinas began sharing more personal topics that affected them as active women of color. In various editorials and articles, women discuss the sexism they experienced within the activist community.
A poignant and candid mention of misogyny and sexism, Latina activists elaborate on feelings of being excluded from leadership positions or demeaned by their colleagues. Writing in La Guardia, Mary Lou Espinoza discussed Latinas access to power and stated that no other oppression is as severe as that of women of color. In relegating women to a domestic sphere, she argues that not only have men devalued women but that Latinas have been brainwash by culture to remain subordinate. Espinoza suggests that women can prosper and add a much-needed perspective to the various movements. She states, “Latin women do not want to become men. They want to be able to breath, to educate ourselves, to influence our community and society at large, and to contribute it with our insight of life.” 
If these women did not feel supported by their own peers and supposed allies, they may have been less likely to talk about the most personal of issues in a public setting. This misogyny was part of a greater cultural issue of machismo which emphasizes manliness and power. However, some antiwar activists saw this machismo as dangerous to everyone, not just women. Some argued that with men being encouraged to enter the Vietnam war, machismo was being used to promote violence rather than education and self-betterment. Machismo could be a useful tool for community advancement but war warped masculinity to be defined by violence. To reshape this narrative, Latinas should have made themselves informed citizens who, alongside men, could redefine the power of machismo in the Latinx community.
The role of men in Latina activism was distinct compared to that of Anglo feminists and their respective movement. Some groups made sure to distance themselves from standard “Women’s Lib” groups. Milwaukee activist Maria Rodriguez argued that, “We [Latinas] didn’t see ourselves as the Gloria Steinem feminists; we saw our men as participants of community change.” An activist since the 1970s, she has been a lifelong advocate of education, reproductive rights, and increasing cultural knowledge. Rodriguez argues that Latina feminism was more collectivist and women wanted to include one’s spouse and family. Inclusion of others was important as decisions made by Latina feminists had to consider the ramifications on the family. Local Latinas did not want to exclude those closest to them but rather include them in their narrative. This approach further demonstrates the role of community within movements. With less of an emphasis on the individual, Latinas strove to campaign for whole groups.
In addition, context helped define local Latinas immediate concerns. For instance, Rodriguez participated in and developed many organizations targeted towards issues impacting Latinas. In an oral history, she explains that while she was involved in broader, mainstream women’s groups, she and other Latinas felt there needed to be a focus placed on their community. Detailing her motivations for founding the group “Latinas En Accion”, Rodriguez stated,
“…that we were part of this community and that we needed to really focus in on some of the things that would affect women and bringing them to, well dealing with social justice issues and making sure that women were advancing.”
In addition to community organizing, Rodriguez worked at Planned Parenthood where she aimed to increase girls and women’s awareness about educational programming. She mentions the conversation she had with her mother before accepting the position. Worried she would disapprove or ask her reconsider, Rodriguez’s mother, instead discussed with openness the realities of many Latinas in the past. Noting the lack of health education and family planning options available to older generations, Rodriguez’s mother supported her daughter’s attempt to change and inform her community. Surprised at her response and candor, Rodriguez reflected on her mother’s support as indicative of her larger intolerance of inequality and want to help others. She remarks that she was encouraged to use her knowledge to inform and empower those who may not always be able to advocate for themselves.
Close relationships with established trust, such as that between mother and daughter, are crucial to furthering important conversations and movements. As highlighted in Rodriguez’s interview, she discusses a hesitance to talk to her mother about the controversial Planned Parenthood. However, due to the deep respect and trust between each other, a fruitful and surprising conversation arises, one that questions cultural assumptions. Yet her initial worries also suggest that not everyone engaged in sensitive dialogues.
Conforming to traditional cultural notions of femininity proved to be a source of conflict for young Latinas at the time. Some young women state they were encouraged by previous generations to improve their lives through education. Citing the lack of opportunity for one’s mother or grandmother, young Latinas were often told of the financial and personal opportunities education provided. However, others disregard this and stated that women should help their families by seeking the roles of mother and caretaker. Due to expectations to be housewives and mothers, the willingness to become educated or enter the workforce is hindered as women grapple with pleasing both their families and themselves. For some women, working was not an option as they had to help support a family.
While not exclusive to the Latinx community, these issues were exacerbated by an urgency stressed by previous generations to seek marriage and subsequent motherhood at an early age. Such a focus on the role and necessity of motherhood made it seem to be an obligation rather than a choice. Those who married but did not have children right away still felt the obligation to become an ideal wife and mother as soon as possible. Those vocal against these pressures were perceived as rebellious and were met with confusion. With much pressure coming from older individuals, generational differences further fueled tension.
Many young Latinas discuss an inner conflict that arises as they attempt to seek their passions while maintaining a strong cultural identity. One woman, Gloria Villanueva Jimenez, shares her experiences in an El Universal article. From childhood, she expressed an untraditional attitude towards gender roles and sought to be a leader. She explains that despite her academic accomplishments and interests, her parents questioned her interest in higher education. Over time, however, her relationship with her parents improved as they understood the validity of her choices. She explains that an adherence to tradition is not an issue and many women find fulfillment in motherhood and housewifery. In doing so, she is acknowledging that limited opportunities for women restricts them of their full potential. Restricting Latinas to one role further excludes them from a larger narrative. A mother herself, Jimenez concludes by noting that Latinas unhappy in their roles should ‘break out’ and pursue other routes in life.
Milwaukee may serve as a small reflection of larger national opinions. Issues that the nation faced manifested themselves on a microscale in varying degrees in Milwaukee. However, location specific events had the power to stress the urgency of some issues over others thus making the perspectives of Milwaukee and its residents unique. An initial focus on Roe v. Wade does not encompass the full spectrum of motivations of the Milwaukee Latinx community. While a watershed moment for all women, it was a distinct landmark for Anglo women’s movements during the second wave of modern feminism. Within the Latinx community, as with the larger population, there are a variety of abortion opinions dependent on a several factors. However, due to a host of personal and cultural reasons as well as community events, Milwaukee Latinas did not outright address abortion, let alone the Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade. For instance, local issues such as student demonstrations, unemployment, and access to a quality education held precedent over national issues. Though an important issue, reproductive rights were not always at the forefront for these community activists.
Expanding the voices of women included in a conversation further informs a greater narrative of the complexities of gender issues. A consideration of one’s cultural and geographical location, among other factors, acknowledges the varying circumstances in which individuals experience the world. The analysis of Milwaukee Latina’s activism and their related roles within the community demonstrates the role of context in fueling movements. As presented, the Milwaukee Latinx community established various networks to rectify their most immediate concerns. The power of Latinas has been ever present but they have long been ignored by others. Amplifying these women is crucial to chronicling their legacies as activists and individuals. As organizers, leaders, and mothers, Milwaukee Latinas found empowerment and fulfillment by addressing the specific needs of the community closest to them in their own ways.
Arenas, Andrea-Teresa, and Eloisa Gomez. 2018. Somos Latinas: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018. Reproductive Health: Data and Statistics. February 16. Accessed 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/index.htm.
Chavez, Jennie V. 2016. “Women of the Mexican American Movement, 1972.” In Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, by Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron De Hart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, 733-735. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eschenburg, Beverly, May 9, 1971. “Abortion Legal!” Kaleidoscope.
Erickson, Pamela I., and Celia P. Kaplan. 1998. “Latinas and Abortion.” In The New Civil War: The Psychology, Culture, and Politics of Abortion, by Linda J. Beckman and S. Marie Harvey, 133-155. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Espinoza, Mary Lou. 1970. “Latin Leaders Leave Wives at Home.” La Guardia. June. 8.
Gurda, John. 1976. The Latin Community on Milwaukee’s Near South Side. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Urban Observatory.
Hoshiko, Sumi. 1993. “Alisia.” In Our Choices: Women’s Personal Decisions About Abortion, by Sumi Hoshiko, 85-90. Binghamton: Haworth Press.
La Causa Day Care. n.d. “las madres abren daycare center.” La Guardia.
La Guardia Staff. n.d. “cumunal clinicas de salud del sur.” La Guardia.
Longoria, Thomas. 1998. “Gender and Political Participation in the Latino Community.” El Universal, 5,8.
Moore, Joan. 1998. “The potential for Female Leadership.” El Universal, Winter: 9.
Rodriguez, Maria, interview by Casey Resendez. 2015. Interview with Maria Rodriguez, Fall 2015 Wisconsin Historical Society, (Fall).
Sanchez, Corinne. n.d. “exploitation of machismo.” La Guardia.
Statement of Emily Louis Before the Social Development Commission in Support of Planned Parenthood Proposal, 16 December 1964, Box 62, Folder 1, Vel Phillips Papers, 1946- 2009, Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Library Archive and Museum Collections, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries’ Archives Department.
Statement Presented by Lucius Walker Before the Social Development Commission in Support of Planned Parenthood Proposal, Box 62, Folder 1, Vel Phillips Papers, 1946-2009, Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Library Archive and Museum Collections, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries’ Archives Department.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. n.d. UWM Latino Activism. https://uwm.edu/lib- collections/latino-activism/.
Unknown. n.d. “Mujeres de La Raza.” La Guardia. 3,10.
—. 1971. “Las Chicanas.” The Young Lord, 1.
Villanueva Jimenez, Gloria. 1998. “A Latina Baby Boomer Speaks Out.” El Universal, Winter: 1, 9.
 “Reproductive Health: Data and Statistics,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, February 16. Accessed 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/index.htm.
 R. Sauer, “Attitudes to Abortion in America, 1800-1973.” Population Studies (1974): 65-66.
 Pamela I. Erickson and Celia P. Kaplan, “Latinas and Abortion.” In The New Civil War: The Psychology, Culture, and Politics of Abortion, by Linda J. Beckman and S. Marie Harvey, (Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association, 1998), 136-137.
Abortion rates: 47% of Latinos, 51% of Whites, 42% of African-Americans.
 Beverly Eschenburg, “Abortion Legal!” Kaleidoscope, May 9, 1971.
 Jim Gibbons, “Abortion & the Law,” Kaleidoscope, Apr. 11, 1968.
 Emily Louis, “Statement of Emily Louis Before the Social Development Commission in Support of Planned Parenthood Proposal,” (Vel Phillips Papers, 1946-2009), December 16, 1964.
 John Gurda, “The Latin Community on Milwaukee’s Near South Side,” (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Urban Observatory, 1976), 11-16.
 Lucius Walker, “Statement Presented by Lucius Walker Before the Social Development Commission in Support of Planned Parenthood Proposal” (Vel Phillips Papers, 1946 -2009).
 Pamela I. Erickson and Celia P. Kaplan, “Latinas and Abortion,” 147.
 Sumi Hoshiko, “Alisia.” in Our Choices: Women’s Personal Decisions About Abortion, by Sumi Hoshiko, (Binghamton: Haworth Press, 1993), 85-90.
 “UWM Latino Activism,” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, https://uwm.edu/lib -collections/latino-activism/.
 Pamela I. Erickson and Celia P. Kaplan, “Latinas and Abortion,” 143.
 Andrea-Teresa Arenas and Eloisa Gomez, Somos Latinas: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2018), 5.
 Thomas Longoria, “Gender and Political Participation in the Latino Community.” El Universal (Milwaukee, WI), Winter 1998.
 La Guardia Staff, “cumunal clinicas de salud del sur.” La Guardia (Milwaukee, WI).
 La Causa Day Care, “las madres abren daycare center.” La Guardia (Milwaukee, WI).
 Jennie V. Chavez, “Women of the Mexican American Movement, 1972,” in Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, by Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron De Hart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 733 -735.
Unknown, “Las Chicanas,” The Young Lord (Milwaukee, WI), 1971.
 Mary Lou Espinoza, “Latin Leaders Leave Wives at Home,” La Guardia (Milwaukee, WI), Jun. 8, 1970.
 Corinne Sanchez, “exploitation of machismo,” La Guardia (Milwaukee, WI).
 Unknown, “Mujeres de La Raza,” La Guardia (Milwaukee, WI).
 Andrea-Teresa Arenas and Eloisa Gomez, Somos Latinas: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists, 169.
 Maria Rodriguez, interview by Casey Resendez, Wisconsin Historical Society, Fall 2015.
 Joan Moore, “The potential for Female Leadership,” El Universal (Milwaukee, WI), Winter 1998.
 Gloria Villanueva Jimenez, “A Latina Baby Boomer Speaks Out,” El Universal (Milwaukee, WI), Winter 1998.
Hemlock, a Floridian Female Whooping crane is often seen side by side to her new mate, Grasshopper. Grasshopper’s home is in Baraboo, WI a place known for its environmentalism. Aldo Leopold’s Shack and Farm is allegedly where Leopold spent the summers writing the Sand County Almanac. Hemlock’s new home, Grasshopper’s marsh has water in which knobby knees can reflect with tall grasses: Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The Horicon Refuge has now contributed to a 20-year long effort to reintroduce Whooping cranes back into the marshes of the Midwest.
For the Whooping crane, population size has been a difficult thing to reckon with. As of February 2018, the crane’s total population broke it’s 700 ceiling. Due to habitat loss and human poaching, in 1941 the number used to be just 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes. According to Operation Migration, it was always a rare bird numbering at 1,400 in 1860 but is still endangered. North America’s tallest crane can be just under five feet tall.
The wetlands on which Whooping cranes spend their lives are found at the intersection of land and water. A bird on the edge, it’s current habitat rests between the United States and Canada. These countries’ governments and non-profits have coordinated a sustained effort for conservation of the species. In Wisconsin’s case, Horicon Marsh’s wildlife biologist is Hillary Thompson. In her interview with UWUM, Thompson stated that using a jet to transport a whole family of the cranes, who have wingspans up to 7 feet, is a temporary set-back to migration patterns that will bring long-term benefits. Other than the captive birds, there are four different flocks that biologists have recorded.
The main wild population breeds in Wood Buffalo National Park in northwestern Canada and have been spotted in wetlands of Texas’s coasts and around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Although not all Whooping crane flocks migrate, the Wood Buffalo/Aranas flock’s mass movement is most often seen in assemblies of 2-5 birds. There are two non-migratory flocks, one in Florida, where biologists had stopped reintroducing birds in 2008 due to survival and reproduction issues and one in Louisiana.
A notable aspect of this species is that there is a human-raised flock. That flock spends its summers in Wisconsin to its winter-grounds Florida. Currently of the 600 birds 100 make this flock their home. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), “Each winder since 2001, whooping cranes have been led by ultra-light aircraft from Wisconsin to Florida.” Operation Migration’s attempts to guide the crane’s migration ended after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2015 cited due to concerns that the strategy was “too artificial” Despite this, the ultimate goal for the flock was to make the it more self-reliant. Operation Migration and other organizations like Horicon’s Refuge have successfully reintroduced whooping cranes who avoid humans. Now, the ulta-light aircraft is a symbol of conservation.
All in all, there is only one wild self-sustaining flock left in North America. Whooping cranes, have only just met the 700 mark and illegal shootings continue to be a significant obstacle, especially for the Louisiana population. The now-dissolved non-profit Operation Migration had played a fundamental 15-year role in studying and implementing human-guided migration which has shown to stabilize the population. The two new chicks now living in Baraboo, WI have the future to look forward to. I see this as proof that humans will not fail those “ 186 trusting Whooping cranes tailing off our wingtips” without a fight.
Despite the obstacles and how much farther we have to go, in my mind, this is a success story of humanity.
Putin’s democracy is turning into dictatorship. There are many who believe that he should be held criminally responsible for corrupting the American election system. The former recon-centered KBG man shows his colors when his relationship to organized crime show through the elimination of opposition. While it’s easy to acknowledge that Putin is taking steps to create a illiberal democracy, some would say that Russia doesn’t want to be democratic in the first place. In the time of the collapse of the soviet union, Putin was in charge of St. Petersburg which is known as the gangster capital of Russia. Under him, they had terrible food shortages, the promised food never arose. There has been evidence that Putin and his inner circle have used public funds to build private summer houses.
But the worst atrocity that is linked to Putin is Russia’s equivalent to 9/11, which was an apartment bombing which he used to wage war on a nearby region. All investigators involved in the apartment bombings have wound up dead or in prison. The president is above the law, this is the Russian style, closed systems fortified by bribery and corruption. Kleptocracy has had its influence outside of Russia through deliberate economic warfare. No investments happen unless Putin gives the word, he is fabulously wealthy through hiding his money through proxy companies. After the Arab spring, Putin was worried about his safety after leaving office so he didn’t back down.
According to the Kremlin’s playbook, “corruption is the lubricant on which this system operates.” This is indicative of the exploitation of state resources to further Russia’s network of influence. This should be considered a national security threat due to democratic backsliding. They call it Next Generation Warfare, where you cannot differentiate between government and organized crime and erode the foundations of democracy within. Sometimes Russian influence in another state’s economy can average more than 12 percent of its entire GDP. This influence disrupts faith in the structure of government, and the institution of election. Confusion, coercion, and paralysis is the name of the game in Russia’s overt and covert economic warfare. They want to collapse the countries from within because Russia wants to make the rules on the international stage again, so they use propaganda, espionage, blackmail, and subversion as their strategy of influence. They aim for Energy and economics in order to get a culmination of politicians friendly to them. By corrupting our systems they aim to “break internal coherence of the economic system” and threaten the moral authority of western democracies.
All in all, campaign interference is linked to economic influence and undermining the institutions in which US global leadership operates is the best way to weaken democracy. Information and economic wars in some respects are more powerful than traditional warfare. But it is within our power to stop Russian interference and New Generation Warfare. Watchful eyes may benefit us when our democratic institutions are at stake.
Oksana Shachko was a co founder of a feminist protest movement that was active during an extremely turbulent time for Ukraine. At age 31, she was found dead in her home in Montrouge, Paris. According to statement from the New York Times, by Anna Hutsol a fellow co founder of Femen broke the details to Ukrainska Pravda, “Oksana hanged herself.”
The artistic Shachko was born in Khmelnytsky into a religious family and when she was young, pondered becoming a nun until her parents talked her out of it. Afterward she decided to reject not the iconography that she had painted for the church but the idea of God itself. However, the feminist icons that she created were now for art galleries.
Femen is a provocative, guns blazing, post-soviet feminist phenomena along the likes of Pussy Riot. However, due to their self-described, “sextremism” members of Femen have encountered vicious reactions. In their trademark topless protest, they had donned thick adhesive mustaches and wore flower crowns in front of Belarus’s KGB headquarters demanding the freedom of political prisoners. Afterward, according to the New York Times, Ms Shachko and other activists had been abducted in Belarus’s capital, Minsk.
However, in 2011 only three years after forming, they were soon demanding government protection. Minsk. Not to mention the abduction, other Femen members had been beaten in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital during 2013. That same year, many of the foundational members moved to Paris and Femen’s protests fell into inactivity.
Shachko would help stage eye-catching protests all around Europe to protest against sexual exploitation, income inequality, and the policies of the Roman Catholic Church. A movement like Femen is born in hurricane speed winds and embraces a radical feminist idea that has inspired others.
In Lu Xun’s Nahan or A Call to Arms,” he makes an interesting comparison of Chinese society:
Imagine an iron house without windows, absolutely indestructible, with many people fast asleep inside who will soon die of suffocation. But you know since they will die in their sleep, they will not feel the pain of death. Now if you cry aloud to wake a few of the lighter sleepers, making those unfortunate few suffer the agony of irrevocable death, do you think you are doing them a good turn?” [In turn his friend in the story returns,] “But if a few awake, you can’t say there is no hope of destroying the iron house. 
During his time, Lu Xun was an active critique of the existing warlord system of China. In China, democracy is not an influential idea. In Chinese democracy, priorities are evaluated differently from western democracy. Although there have been attempts at democratization in the past, liberal democracy will most likely not be achieved in the 21st century due to political strongmen, nationalism, and its authoritarian resilience.
A liberal democracy is vastly different from the current structure of the People’s Republic of China. Liberal democracy can be defined as a representative political system that is characterized by multiparty elections, separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Whereas the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist position of democracy is built on an economic foundation. Mao is recorded as saying, “Democracy for the people and dictatorship over the reactionaries, the combination of these two constituent parts is the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”. Under the Chinese communist system there was a written democracy, but decisions were still made by the unelected politburo.
China’s second core leadership, Deng Xiaoping, believed that China should never adopt a western-style democracy, the thinking was that the multi-party representative system and a system of checks and balances were a democratic monopoly of the capitalist class. Instead, especially in light of the Soviet Union’s collapse, Deng preferred incremental changes in his reforms rather than a shock therapy style. According to Deng, “without political stability, there could be no democracy.” And these stable reforms can be achieved through intraparty democracy.
These differences between the West and the East are the product of different histories. Whereas the United States, the typical example of a liberal democracy has a short history and its entire history is based in democratic tradition; China is one of the longest lasting cohesive histories, has no historical background to support democracy. Although that history alone can never determine a country’s future it does play a small role. The largest extent of democracy that existed in the Late Qing dynasty was a process called memorialization in which high ranking officials could draft a document on matters that concerned them and send it to the Emperor. The mainstream ideology of China, Confucianism focuses on the rule of virtue rather than rule of law. So, they would examine the morality of a leader instead of whether that leader’s power was based in legitimacy.
Despite this history there have been pushes for democracy by the Chinese people and always someone willing to stand up and speak out. The May Fourth and the New Culture Movement was one of the earliest and largest emergences of a civil society. Since then, any democratic opening or loosening has always been slammed shut by the Communist Party.
The economic reforms promulgated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has transformed china into a heavy hitter of the International Market. This economic development is a direct result of the reform of the traditional socialist economic system. Structure of ownership was reformed, and the economy was diversified. Communes were abandoned and replaced with contracts and pay-scales. This formerly shut, and thoroughly planned economy was to a small extent replaced by a free market system. Prices were now subject to supply and demand pressure and international exchange rates. It is difficult to make such economic democratization and decentralization without social reforms as well. The CCP’s shift from absolute centralism toward an incremental democracy has resulted in many reforms.
China’s civil society has grown, in 1989 there were a little over 1600 civil society organizations and now there are at least 700,000 nationwide. There has also even been experimentation in direct elections and local self-governance at the village level. In 1979 the Law for the Election of National and Local People’s Congress Representatives mandated that all people’s congress representatives below the county level must be directly elected. A decade later, the Organic Law of the Village Administration of Committees of the PRC provided a framework for the gradual expansion of the self-governance system in villages, nationwide. By the end of 1997, 60 percent of villages nationwide had begun the transition toward the direct free election of village administrators. However, when there is reform, people with vested interests, and economic gains to be had, corruption always follows. Reform leaders knew that there were some party bureaucrats were hindering economic reforms. This corruption was due to the political system itself.
In response to this corruption Deng Xiaoping put forth the “Four Modernizations” but a democracy movement was brewing on the side streets of Tiananmen square. 1978-1979’s Democracy wall was the place where old Cultural Revolution wounds were given space to breathe. A notable example of a participant is Wei Jingsheng who was exemplary and unusual since he put his name and address on his work that he posted on the Democracy Wall. his wall poster campaign, called “the Fifth Modernization: Democracy” insisted that unless democracy was put into place, all other modernizations would fail. He was a part of the “sent down” generation and spent some time in the People’s Liberation Army. Wei edited an unofficial newspaper even though he only completed a high school level education. His core point in his “Fifth Modernization was that” democracy was not solely the result of social development, it was also the condition for the development of higher production. But in the end, Jingsheng was arrested along with other activists and the regime tightened controls.
But the road from dictatorship to democracy is the most political transition of all and you cannot skip any stages of developing a democracy. The Arab spring has wilted, Thailand’s elections have only resulted in coups, and Cambodia and Malaysia both have had deeply flawed elections. There is no guarantee that a newborn democracy will survive to maturation. Any elections however, even if flawed or ignored can put a country on the right path since it can whet the people’s appetite for the real thing. Another feature of a successful transition is the degree of consent by the regimes being replaced. The military, often referred to in other countries as the “deep state” must have an incentive to not take the power into their own hands. Since it has empirically shown that violence begets more violence, if China were to have a change it must have a peaceful mass movement. A third-party mediator has been helpful in past transitions in other countries such as Myanmar as well as foreign sponsors to assist and buttress blooming democracies and the sprouts of rule of law.
Perhaps the most infamous of all democracy movements of China is the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. This massive demonstration was one in which more than a million people participated and lasted months. It was complete with students, hunger strikes, workers, intellectuals, and others. It was initiated to demand a posthumous rehabilitation of the former communist party chairman Hu Yaobang and transformed into a protest against corruption and a demonstration for democracy. In response, the People’s Liberation army’s guns pointed at the people themselves and dispersed the crowd with live ammunition after almost a month of instating marshal law. No one is sure exactly how many people died but the estimates range from 180 to 10,454. This protest more than any other called for the establishment of direct and competitive elections throughout all levels of government (Goldman).
After Tiananmen massacre, there were widespread predictions that the CCP would collapse, but they were proved wrong. According to regime theory, the CCP should’ve collapsed under such pressure. Regime theory puts forth the idea that Authoritarian systems are inherently fragile because of increased internal resistance, overreliance on coercion, over centralization of decision making and predominance of personal power over institutional norms. The resulting purges of the party muted the differences of opinion within the party and transformed the different ideologies to become more homogenous. Per capita income was $250 in 1989 grew to $1200 in 2006. Although politically damaged the CCP were hardly without resources. They tightened control over the media and heightened crackdown on any dissent. The regime brought inflation under control, restarted economic growth, expanded foreign trade, and increased in absorption of Foreign Direct Investment. Political leaders are now better educated than any other previous Chinese leadership of the 20th century.
Instead of failing under the democratization pressures the regime reconsolidated itself. This proves that the CCP is not weak nor is it lacking policy option. The argument that democracy, freedom, and human rights leading to stronger stability hold no appeal for these men. Now that China has abandoned its utopian ideology and cult leadership, empowered a technocratic elite, introduced bureaucratic regularization and specialization and they have slightly reduced control over private speech and action leads us to a disturbing possibility. China has proven that totalitarian regimes can adapt to modernity and integration with the global economy.
So, is there any chance of democracy in China? Based on the recent social crackdowns by Xi Jinping, the relative stagnation of the economy and the new constitutional amendment that would change the Chinese presidential term, there may be an opening for another movement of democracy. Due to the change in the “electoral” system and other recent corruption events that took place in Peking University due to sexual harassment claims there have been the largest mobilization of student protest since Tiananmen. The hunger for democracy that had been whet by local village elections and noncompetitive National People’s Congress elections may surface again. Modern technologies such as blockchain may facilitate Chinese democracy movements since the “great firewall” is still firmly in place.
In order for China to democratize successfully it must balance the power of the people, socio-economic conditions, and state capacity, and keep in mind that political elites will have a lot of say if China were to transition. To survive, the government needs to be strong enough to have a monopoly on violence, that is to say no one else can threaten its citizens other than the state. Historically, the CCP has had no issue with this point. If china were to democratize, it most likely would not follow the path of many middle eastern countries which have no history of “stateness” But those same citizens need to have enough power to constrain that violence. As we’ve seen with Xi Jinping, Deng Xiaoping, and Mao Zedong, the importance of political leadership in China has been paramount. This will most likely still hold true if China were to transition and consolidate democracy. This will prove to be one of the largest obstacles in China’s democratic transition.
The Chinese Communist Party will do everything it can to maintain its own integrity. Political elites in China will be inflexible in providing the conditions for a peaceful transition. A history of uncompromising political leadership that has successfully stopped every push for democratization and has actually used those crises to strengthen itself shows disfavor toward the possibility of transition. Recently there has been an even greater uptick in Chinese nationalism in response to its joining the World Trade Organization and other pressures of globalization. There has always been a nationalist streak in Chinese history, its fundamentalist interpretation of sovereignty, its nonnegotiable one china policy regarding Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. But these contentions have created several conflicts that could easily spin out of control during a transitional period.
All in all, while optimism prevents me from believing that democracy is completely out of grasp for the people of China, taking into account modern Chinese history, a functioning democracy will most likely be out of reach in the 21st century due to nationalism, uncompromising political leadership, and the CCP’s transition-based norms that foster its resilience. There will always be people, like Lu Xun and Wei Jingsheng who will speak out against corruption and injustice. Economic reforms create an opening for the people of China, but if stability is continued to be prioritized over all else, incremental democratic reforms will not be enough to make a full transition and China will not fulfill its full potential without its “Fifth Modernization”.
Edition, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th. Tiananmen Square. n.d.
Fewsmith, Joseph. China after Tiananmen. Boston: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Goldman, Merle. Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China, Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era. Harvard University Press, 1995.
International, The Economist. From Dictatorship to Democracy the Road less Travelled. 26 November 2015. 13 May 2018.
Jingsheng, Wei. “Asia for educators.” 1978. http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/wei_jingsheng_fifth_modernization.pdf. 13 May 2018.
Keping, Yu. “Toward an Incremental Democracy and Governance: Chinese Theories and Assessment Criteria.” New Political Science (2002): 181-199. EBSCOhost.
Liu, Yu. “Lessons of New Democracies for China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science (2018): 105-120.
Nathan, Andrew J. Chinese Democracy. University of California Press, 1986.
—. “China’s Changing of the Guard: Authoritarian Resilience.” Association for Asian studies (2003): 6-17.
Yang, Yuan. “Sexual harassment cases Trigger China Student Protests.” 24 April 2018. Financial Times. 8 May 2018.
 Lau, Joseph S. M., and Howard Goldblatt. The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, 2007.
 Keping, Yu. “Toward an Incremental Democracy and Governance: Chinese Theories and Assessment Criteria.” New Political Science (2002): 181-199. EBSCOhost.
 Keping, Yu. “Toward an Incremental Democracy and Governance: Chinese Theories and Assessment Criteria.” New Political Science (2002): 181-199. EBSCOhost.
 Goldman, Merle. Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China, Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era. Harvard University Press, 1995.
 Nathan, Andrew J. Chinese Democracy. University of California Press, 1986.
 Nathan, Andrew J. Chinese Democracy. University of California Press, 1986.
 Keping, Yu. “Toward an Incremental Democracy and Governance: Chinese Theories and Assessment Criteria.” New Political Science (2002): 181-199. EBSCOhost.
 Keping, Yu. “Toward an Incremental Democracy and Governance: Chinese Theories and Assessment Criteria.” New Political Science (2002): 181-199. EBSCOhost.
 Goldman, Merle. Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China, Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era. Harvard University Press, 1995.
 Jingsheng, Wei. “Asia for educators.” 1978. http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/wei_jingsheng_fifth_modernization.pdf. 13 May 2018.
 International, The Economist. From Dictatorship to Democracy the Road less Travelled. 26 November 2015. 13 May 2018.
 Edition, Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th. Tiananmen Square. n.d.
 Fewsmith, Joseph. China after Tiananmen. Boston: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
 Nathan, Andrew J.”China’s Changing of the Guard: Authoritarian Resilience.” Association for Asian studies (2003): 6-17.
 Liu, Yu. “Lessons of New Democracies for China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science (2018): 105-120.
 Yang, Yuan. “Sexual harassment cases Trigger China Student Protests.” 24 April 2018. Financial Times. 8 May 2018.
 Liu, Yu. “Lessons of New Democracies for China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science (2018): 105-120.
 Liu, Yu. “Lessons of New Democracies for China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science (2018): 105-120.
In “Hut on the Mountain” by Can Xue we see an experimental story where there is no discernable plot, complex family relationships, and a crisis of identity all rooted in a historical allegory. “The term avant-garde refers to a progressive, cutting-edge movement in which new and often surprising ideas in art, literature, and other areas are developed.” (Caffrey) Can Xue falls into this category with ease with this experimental short story. Avant-garde by definition is iconoclastic, meaning it doesn’t fall into traditional story telling modes or expression. She uses a cutting Franz Kafka-influenced darkness and absurdity to tell her revealing nightmarish tales. In “Hut on the Mountain” Can Xue explores the plight of individuality within conformist context of Chinese society, especially during the Cultural Revolution.
Like Kafka, she doesn’t utilize any cohesive plot in this nightmarish world, and since there is no logical sequence of events, nothing makes sense. But, when viewed in the context of history it becomes clearer. This story is tethered to a significant socio-cultural event and is a dramatization of the brutality of the Chinese Cultural revolution that officially occurred from 1966-1979. The cultural revolution was a time of almost civil-war like violence, torture, execution, and re-location of anyone who had dissident views from Mao’s “treasures”. Including the author’s family who was sent away from their home to live in a hut near a labor camp (Raschke). Mao’s little red book as it was often referred to taught that the destruction of the old was necessary. During this time, adherence to Maoist thought was paramount and in fact it was crucial for survival during this time. Anything that was regarded as old, often regarded succinctly as the “Four Olds,” meaning the vestiges of imperialism and feudalism, were to be destroyed. Old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits were sought out by the military student group called the Red Guard. During this time, paranoia was rampant since anyone could report you and have dire consequences befall you. There was a culture of snitching on each other, regardless of relation. Old values such filial piety was given up in favor of the revolution. Everyone in Xue’s story is suspicious of each other, ready to give each other up.
Can Xue utilizes a stream-of-consciousness first person narration. This style of narration she wields with vigor, trapping us in the narrator’s limited point of view and making us subject to her rambling interior monologues. For her purposes this is particularly effective to explain the irrationality of the narrator’s mind. Both modern and illogical; inexplicable sights and sounds and all interactions are filtered through the first person. In fact, the narrator’s experiences are entirely isolated from her family in the story. It is that no one believes her or they ignore her completely. They are not experiencing at all what she is experiencing. “There’s something wrong with everyone’s ears” (383) This affect creates tension and a barrier between the narrator’s individual vision and the communal one of her family. The communal vision is used to discount the narrator’s own personal thoughts since she is the only one who sees and hears the events happening, and is completely ignored. Can Xue’s usage of this narration style creates a very subjective storyline. The fact that the entire story takes place in and around this hut on the mountain locks the reader into a social context, forcing her to interact with her suspicious family until the end. Compounding the use of setting and point of perspective juxtaposes the opposing sides of self and society. It is a monologue where a dichotomy appears between the “them” in this case the narrator’s family and the “us” of course referring the narrator.
Placed within cultural and personal context events of Hut on the Mountain takes on a darker meaning. Persecution of the individual is hard to escape, and the reader feels oppressed by the conditions and tone of the story that take place. A concrete description of madness starts to take on more form, “When my eyes became adapted to the darkness inside, they’d hidden themselves-laughing in their hiding places” (384). Individuality becomes a cage that Can Xue locks the reader in, never being allowed to glimpse anything from the outside. When the narrator does go outside it is described as so bright and so hot that she cannot see or hear anything expect for what she describes as “White pebbles glowing with flames” (386).
Her Mother represents the extreme views of the cultural revolution. The Mother and the narrator have a lot of contention over the narrator’s obsession of tending to her drawers. “‘Huh, you’ll never get done with those drawers’ said Mother, forcing a smile. ‘Not in your lifetime’” Drawers by definition store and organize materials for use. When the narrator is told that her desk drawers were sorted, and she finds missing papers, she gets very upset. Clearly this is something very dear to her since she keeps going back to it. I believe that the desk drawers symbolize her mind, imagination, and largely her private thoughts. By interfering with her drawers, her family is attempting to purge daughter of her private thoughts by going through her drawers, taking things out and reorganizing them.
But the Mother not only has influence on the narrator, but also holds sway over her father who symbolizes the intellectuals during the cultural revolution, “‘In fact, no scissors have ever fallen into the well. Your mother says positively that I’ve made a mistake’” Her Father who is obsessed with those pair of scissors tells the story of how he would lie away at night thinking of the scissors rusting at the bottom of the well. As a result of his obsession his hair on his left temple was turning gray. The father is an example of an older intellectual during the cultural revolution. The scissors were his old values, and when he tried to go back to the well to fish them out he tells the story of how his hands lost their grip and so the bucket fell to the bottom of the well and shattered into pieces. Everything that he had once held tightly in his grasp were now rusting at the bottom of a deep well. His wife consistently tells him to forget about it but he grows older and grieves persistently without the pair of scissors by his side.
Although not mentioned as much as the narrator’s parents, the little sister seems to be very blunt with her words, “Everything has its own cause from way back. Everything.” (385) This seems to be the only attempt at rationalization and explanation in the entire book. It hints at the history and paths that had brought the family together to be at this point. The two sides, narrator and family are mutually suspicious but linked together in relationship. The dominating forces of reality are internalized by the family, resulting in a nightmare of which had perhaps even inevitable causes from long ago.
Can Xue’s use of objects; scissors, drawers, chess set, quilts are steeped with symbolism. Her description of objects are projections of internal images of the narrator or allegorical explanations that parallel the Cultural Revolution. In the Cultural Revolution, books escaped by being buried and in the “Hut on the Mountain” the main character keeps digging up a chess set that her parents warn her from retrieving. “Every time you dig by the well and hit stone with a screeching sound, you make Mother and me feel as if we were hanging in midair. We shudder at the sound and kick with bare feet but can’t reach the ground” (385) I believe that the pursuit of intellect is represented by the chess set. The parent’s feelings are similar to that of a person being hung. During the Cultural Revolution it wasn’t only your actions that would get you into trouble but the actions of those around you. This is demonstrated by her insistence of digging the chess set out of the ground because it often made her parents feel disconnected from the earth and the sky. Can Xue’s description of objects reveal the real meaning of her piece. Private thoughts are represented by drawers, for example when the narrator starts to oil her drawers, her mother doesn’t pay attention because it makes no sound but even with this precaution, “the light suddenly went out. I heard mother’s sneering laugh in the next room” (385) She is constantly being watched by her family and they revel in the chance to be an obstacle in her pursuits.
Fear and cold sweat are juxtaposed to provide even further a feeling of uneasiness and paranoia. “You get so scared in your dreams that cold sweat drips from the soles of your feet. Everyone in this house sweats this way in his sleep. You have only to see how damp the quilts are.” (384) The quilts are soaked with sweat which further illustrates the constant anxiety the people who had experienced the revolution went through. When you sleep you are at your most vulnerable, and that’s why anxiety would affect the characters in such a way.
A motif of the narrator is that she is often sitting in her chair. The armchair represents the feeling of helplessness and invisible imprisonment of the narrator, “‘Bits of ice are forming in my stomach. When I sit down in my armchair I can hear them clinking away.’” (385) Her sitting in that chair is mentioned many times throughout the short story. The ice is indicative of the freezing of her innards in response to not being able to feel the warmth and safety of an open society. Her own family are her guards and all she can do is sit. The narrator sits in the chair with her hands on her knees doing nothing but listening to the “tumultuous sounds of the north wind whipping against the…hut, and the howling of the wolves echoing in the valleys.” (383) Even her father is a wolf, waiting to devour and mourning. The wolves are of course representative of the carnivorous forces that lurk in the valleys surrounding the hut.
Xue’s background: her family was sent away from a residential area to a tiny hut about ten by ten meters at the foot of Yueyushan Mountain (Raschke). Can Xue herself has had experiences dating from before the Cultural Revolution that would caution her from expressing her individuality. Her father was branded as an Ultra-rightest and so, her and her entire family were sent to live somewhere else to perform hard labor.
In the end the narrator goes up the mountain that day “There were no grapevines, nor any hut” (386) first sitting in a chair and then goes “into the white light” (386) escape from the communal vision, reality and authority. It is not a light that is comforting by any means. The white light symbolizes freedom where there is no family, no hut, nothing that would watch her silently, waiting to pounce like a wolf. But it is a loneliness and a blindness that will be difficult to eliminate. The Hut on the Mountain is a form of imprisonment since someone is banging on the door during the night to get out. The cultural resonance of individual images in the story and progression of discourse from strange but realistic unveil the internal self which simply vanishes under the dominance of the material reality and pressure of society to conform to the will of society.
All in all, the “Hut on the Mountain” is an allegorical tale in which the author uses family relationships, motifs, objects, an illogical plot progression, and first-person subjective narration to tell the real history of the Cultural Revolution. An exploration of identity crisis in conjunction with the persecution of the individual results in a Kafkaesque nightmare-scape that is Can Xue’s avant-garde short story.
Raschke, Debrah. “Can Xue’s “Hut on the Mountain”: Ghosts of China’s Cultural Revolution.” Short Story, vol. 21, no. 2, Fall2013, pp. 69-78. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libus.csd.mu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=108487111&site=eds-live.
Caffrey, Cait. “Avant-Garde.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2014. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.libus.csd.mu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=98402029&site=eds-live.
Lau, Joseph S. M., and Howard Goldblatt. The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, 2007. Pp.383-386
It was a dreary afternoon. The sky was overcast, and the wind was a little bit too cool for early June. Despite the weather we were in line for the concert that was in such demand it sold out. Luckily, we had bought tickets months ahead of time. Every time I go to a show in the Pabst, the architecture of Milwaukee’s Pabst theater always takes my breath away. We find our seats and wait for the show to start. I get impatient and buy a white claw and a Guinness for my boyfriend.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard played in Milwaukee on the 9th of June. When the lights first came on a different Australian band strut on stage, every single one of them sporting mullets. Spiit’s cacophonous punk attitude filled the whole theater. People started dive bombing into their fellow crowd members in the front. I was flabbergasted at the choice of a punk band to play before the headliner, a psychedelic rock band. I’m afraid to say that, by the end, I wanted to go home.
I promised my boyfriend to stay for only a couple more songs right before King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. As I listened I held my left wrist’s fingers to count. Slowly my hands dropped to my sides as I heard the familiar flange of the guitar. Rattlesnake permeated the room with the sound of their flawless guitar riffs. The sheer amount of music that they knew by heart was impressive. By the end of the show, all people were jamming to polyrhythmic psychedelic rock and were demanding encore. The band gave in and eventually played us a song that they hadn’t performed in a while, they told us.
At the end of the show I was happy that I went. Despite the horrible weather and a less than stellar opener, the headliner took our standard of what a good performance was and elevated it.
There are many points of contention between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, such as censorship or trade. But there is no larger or more persistent problem than the issue of separatist Taiwan. The goal of this paper is to answer the question of what the United States should do about Taiwan and give a history of relations between Taiwan, China, and the US. To move forward to a more stable regional dynamic, the United States should deepen its role as a mediator to better relations with the People’s Republic of China and resolve the issue of Taiwanese independence.
Taiwan’s core contention for independence comes from the Chinese civil war when the Kuomintang (KMT) or the nationalist party fled there after being pushed out of the mainland by the Chinese Communist Party(CCP). Taiwan has never been ruled by the CCP. The Japanese invasion was a catalyst that resulted in today’s position. At this time, the leader of the KMT was described by Henry Kissinger in his On China, as a “refugee on a small island on the coast of China with the remnants of his forces”. China was a large recipient of US aid during the Japanese occupation (Tucker)
The United States’ relationship with Taiwan has been defined by the boundaries of war. Beginning with the Korean war, the triangular dance between the US, PRC, and Taiwan began. Kim Il-sung attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950 and American ground forces were sent in to establish a defensive perimeter around Pusan (Kissinger). During the war, the island emerged as a strategic outpost, (Tucker) Truman ordered the US pacific fleet to neutralize the Strait to prevent military attacks in either direction and so, china was menaced with encirclement (Kissinger). Taiwan since then has been a significant partner in the Pacific, bonded together through their resistance to Chinese Communism.
Since the Korean war, there have been many disasters across the Taiwan Strait. In 1954-1955 there was the first military attack from China on Taiwanese soil, in this case on the island of Quemoy. This attempt and many attempts afterward have tried to push back the set demarcation of the borders between the PRC and Taiwan. Due to the increasingly intense Cold War occurring, during this time Beijing was concentrating efforts not only on conventional weapons but on its nuclear program in an attempt at a balance of power with both the USSR and the United States.
Another Taiwanese Strait Crisis occurred in 1958 in which about one thousand people were killed or wounded (Kissinger). These renewed bombardments showed Mao’s determination to drive the KMT from the island. In bombing these offshore islands, Mao not only revealed his own determination but tested the United States’. Mao attempted to challenge the current bipolar domination of the international order by Washington and Moscow (Tucker). At the time, Mao Zedong saw the current leader of the USSR, Khrushchev’s surface level peaceful coexistence with the United States as problematic. In his eyes, if the Taiwan strait crisis was pushed to the brink of war Khrushchev might have to chose between peaceful coexistence and an alliance with China. According to Kissinger, the result was that Mao had pushed Khrushchev to make threats that he had no intention of carrying out and in so doing, strained Moscow’s relationship with the US even further.
Relations between Taiwan, the United States, and the People’s Republic of China changed when the PRC took over the representation of China seat in 1971. As a result, there was a shift toward Beijing and a lack of formal diplomatic relations. In order to juggle such a shift, the Taiwan Relations Act was created in 1979. It created a space where the United States didn’t support Taiwanese participation in international organizations but still maintained an unofficial relationship. The act specified that it was now United States policy to support Taiwan and “resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” that would prematurely determine unification. Another stipulation mandated that the United States provide Taiwan with “arms of a defensive character” and demanded the attention of the president and Congress if the social, economic, or other aspects of the Taiwanese people came under threat (Kan).
“You can tell your friends there I have not changed my mind one damn bit about Taiwan. Whatever weapons they need to defend themselves against attacks or invasion by red China, they will get from the US. (Kissinger)” This was a quote from Ronald Reagan during his administration. Despite Reagan’s hardline approach, there were many attempts at mediation called Communiques by the United States, who has been and seems will continue to be comfortable with the status quo. All throughout these communiques, the United States has maintained a “one china policy” position. Before Reagan uttered these words, Nixon’s attempts to open China and create diplomatic normalization with China resulted in a position regarding Taiwan as pledging no support for Taiwanese independence but emphasized its undermined status. In the Third Communique of 1982, which is often cited in the vast array of literature surrounding the topic of Taiwan, Reagan offered six assurances to Taipei which solidified the US’s role in arms sales to Taiwan (Kan).
There was another Taiwan Strait crisis in 1987, five years later the 1992 Consensus which was the result of secret talks between Taipei and Beijing. As a result of the strategic rationale of the Cold War slowly fading another adjustment in diplomatic relations was required. But it seems that the 1992 consensus is rejected just as often as it is accepted. Instead of One China, Two systems, it entails one China, different interpretations, which essentially favors the status quo as it stands (Fell). Over time, the Taiwanese will to retake the Chinese mainland has faded. Now, their de facto independence is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for concern.
This concern was reignited again during the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1995-1996, when in response to increased positive relations between the US and Taiwan, the People’s Republic launched missile “test-firings” toward Taiwan (Kan). As a result, President Clinton felt compelled to deploy two aircraft carriers near Taiwan as a deterrence measure. This seems as a culmination of the past four decades of the demand for international space by Taiwan and China’s unwillingness to end its nationalistic advances on a country that separated long ago. Due to now backward Cold War legacies and the growth of China, it is hard to tell whether it is in or out of American interests to keep to the status quo.
“If conflict were precipitated by just inappropriate and wrongful politics generated by Taiwanese elected officials, I’m not entirely sure that this nation would come full force to their rescue if they created that problem.” This was spoken by Senator John Warner to Admiral William Fallon during 2006. This quote summarizes our stance since the beginning of Taiwan. Strategic ambivalence has been the status quo, despite cold war sentiments against Chinese communism. It seems as if the United States has been quite comfortable in this current position even though the Striat is the only place in the world, besides North Korea, where United States troops might be drawn in against the second largest economy in the world. The United States’ ambivalence was created so as to protect Taiwan from military aggression and create leverage over Mainland China.
Over all of the US presidencies, we have assisted Taiwan in protecting itself. Our goals during the cold war were an ideological foundation that support the status quo today. President Clinton, as per his foreign policy, pushed for a mild change in policy toward Taiwan. Bush had not supported Taiwan’s membership into the United Nations. Since 2001, US policy toward Taiwan has stressed continuity in maintaining the “One China” policy but maintains its obligation to “defend democracy in Taiwan” but also to deter the PRC from pursuing a forceful military unification action. In 2004, we see this in action during Bush’s presidency. President Chen of Taiwan’s referendum efforts to supplement the independence of his democracy were dissuaded through forceful rhetoric on Bush’s part (Kan). President Bush was victim to what a lot of US presidents were victim to if they would push back against Taiwan, criticizing for appeasing a dictatorship at the expense of Taiwan’s democracy.
Successive administrations have shifted US policy closer and closer to Beijing as its economic gravitational pull grew stronger. The PRC has been becoming bolder in its efforts to determine Taiwan’s future (Kan).
We will “pay any price to safeguard the unity of the motherland,” this was spoken in 2003 by the PRC’s Premier at the time, Wen Jiabao who warned of China’s determination regarding its “internal problems”. Since the beginning, the PRC has never renounced its right to use force to “liberate” Taiwan (Kan). In fact, since the 1990s, the People’s Republic of China has been militarizing rapidly on the areas across the Taiwan Strait, and as we’ve seen before has never been afraid to launch military exercises toward Taiwan. In March 2005, an Anti-Secession Law was put into place by the People’s Republic of China, but the Taiwanese president not six months later, Chen Shui-bian, announced that he would terminate the national unification council and its guidelines (Kan).
The basic psychology behind this Chinese civil war legacy is one of an identity split. According to Henry Kissinger, there are two competing versions of the same Chinese national identity. To the mainland, Taiwan is a renegade province who is a constant reminder of their old nickname, the “Sick man of Asia”. These remnants of the “century of humiliation” has resulted in many special administration zones due to China’s semi-colonial status prior to the Second World War, meaning that Taiwan would be given the same status as Hong Kong or Macau. And according to Yang Jiechi, China’s former ambassador to the United States, there may be a path forward worth exploring using this option. In the 1980s The PRC has proposed a peaceful unification within the bounds of a “one country, two systems” policy. Yang believes that when a country is divided, no matter for how long, its people will want to unify (Lampton, Eckholm and Thompson). This opposition of Taiwan’s formal independence is a core principle of Chinese nationalist ideology.
Despite fluctuations between cooperation and conflict, The People’s Republic of China has taken every opportunity to squeeze Taiwan’s international space. This “Orphan of Asia” has a unique and controversial international status. It meets the basic requirements of being defined an independent state; it has over 23 million permanent residents, demarcated and permanent borders, a well-functioning, multilayered government, and the capacity to conduct diplomatic missions despite only being acknowledged by only twenty UN member states (Fell).
The international status of Taiwan pushes and pulls it in many directions, Taiwan’s internal politics play a bigger role than some in the United States give it credit. By the late 1980s Taiwan had established democratic institutions (Kissinger). A recent election in 2016 resulted in the election of Taiwan’s first woman president, Tsai Ing-wen who won over 55 percent of the popular vote. Tsai is also a member of the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan which supports to some extent formal independence of Taiwan. The DPP became the majority party in both Taiwan’s unicameral legislative branch and the presidency. Tsai rejects the 1992 consensus and China has since breaking off negotiations and making renewed efforts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space (Fell). This development is nothing new to the increasingly volatile globalized world.
There are many different push and pull factors inside of Taiwan regarding their identities either as Mainlanders or ethnic Taiwanese. On the Far left, which Fell has described as the proponents of Ethnic Taiwanese Nationalism, are advocates for Taiwanese independence and want a new Taiwan constitution. These voters are the ones who supported president Chen’s advocation for holding a referendum for independence and adopting a new constitution (Kan). Those who are of the center-left persuasion: Civic Taiwanese nationalists argue for anti-unification and are anti-one country, two systems. They advocate for a United Nation application despite international resistance, oppose the PRC’s anti-secession law and want to work toward self-determination.
Those in the center support the Status quo meaning their de facto independence and a dual identity. Something called the Republic of China Chinese Nationalism can be described as Center-Right, they are Anti-Taiwan independence and support the 1992 Consensus. Those who wholly support the PRC’s position are described as Far right, since they want to follow the national unification guidelines and support the one country, two systems principle and of course support the communist party of china (Fell).
Despite these internal and external tensions between the two countries, by the early 1990s economic relations between PRC and ROC have grown to significant levels. (Kan). Taiwan had joined the Asian development Bank and APEC. At the same time, the PRC was getting its economy off the ground. As a result, Taiwan had benefited from PRC’s economic transformation and has been becoming increasingly economic interdependent on it. These was a loosening of restriction on bilateral trade and investment which lead Taiwanese companies to shift their production to the mainland. (Kissinger).
There is a lot at stake here for Taiwan, states have been defecting to the PRC in the UN, since the 1960s it has been a major economic player, and its very independence and self-government depends on the United States. This precarious position is a source of much frustration on both sides of the Strait. The United States alone provides Taiwan with the weaponry it needs to defend itself if China were to make good on its promise of militaristic unification. In 2015, Taiwan was the 17th largest exporting nation in the world and its ability to make decisions regarding its financial market, and its democratic system would be dismantled (Fell). For Taiwan, the special administration status offer is unacceptable. For China, allowing Taiwan to become a formally independent nation is unacceptable. As it stands Taiwan will never be truly free, they are a democracy that cannot determine their own future.
Over time, the US has stressed the processes of the One China policy meaning peaceful resolution and cross-strait dialogue and resolution with the consent of the Taiwanese people with no unilateral provocations from either side. The United States needs to rethink its involvement in the region due to the ever-shifting nature of the international stage. It needs to reevaluate what its goals are, what they want the outcomes to be and make a concrete plan rather than an ambivalent one. But for the PRC and Taiwan it is not the processes for which peace will be achieved its what kind of peace they desire, whether its unification, independence, or even confederation.
There will be dire impacts if a nation were to misstep or overstep. Beijing has been clear about their willingness to use conventional military force if Taipei were to seek formal independence. In response to an increased American weapons sale to Taiwan in 2010, China used threats of “corresponding sanctions” on American companies who were involved in the deal (Branigan). According to PBS FRONTLINE, China adds 50 short range and medium range ballistic missiles in the area of the Taiwan strait every year. The PRC currently has more than 400 missiles and are improving their missile technology such as cruise missiles and multi-warhead missiles. The PRC has 60-70 submarines as of 2001 compared to Taiwan’s four. Taiwan strait is a very important sea link communication channel and cannot afford to be shut down without many countries being drawn in. The Taiwan Strait is one of the few places in the world where the US could potentially clash with another nuclear power with a substantial military since the US would have difficulty remaining disengaged (Tucker).
But direct military force is not the only option that the People’s Republic of China can take, they can also choose to blockade Taiwan and so damage the Taiwanese economy, since they are an export driven economy. To the Chinese Communist Party, the prevention of Taiwan going independent is critical to its legitimacy. By allowing Taiwan to go, there would be signals sent to other nationalists that would allow an opening for overthrowing the regime (PBS Frontline). But, in normalizing relations with china, which something that is greatly in US’s interests the United States have betrayed Taiwan and facilitated their loss of UN representation. Despite this, Taiwan’s strategic location and autocratic nature tips the scale in their direction (Tucker).
With these impacts in mind, I believe that the United States should deepen its role in the Strait. The first step the United States should take is to keep up encouragement of cross-strait dialogue. By increasing communication and information sharing, Taiwanese and Chinese will have less of a chance to misinterpret actions on either side. The United States shall assist Taiwan keep its independent international space though facilitating the diversification of the Taiwanese economic portfolio. At the same time, keep rhetoric and other civil pressures applied so as to deter Taiwan from engaging in risky behavior such as declaring formal independence or even taking the military initiative. A special envoy or coordinator should be appointed for a peace brokering process so there can be some level of closure of this issue.
China’s ideal outcome is unification under the one country two systems model. In Taiwan against unification but opinion is divided is continuing the sq or moving on to formal independence. US has reiterated that it can accept any outcome so long as war is avoided, and it has the consent of the Taiwanese side.
In conclusion, at the moment, the United States doesn’t have a clear role in terms of what action it would take in a military crisis. Our end goal should be geared toward preventing the most likely nightmarish scenarios where the US and China would engage militarily. The strange thing about this topic in particular is that the United States has been acting as a bridge builder but the only place in the whole world where we have not taken an active diplomatic role, overnight we could see United States forces deployed.
Branigan, Tania. “Chinese media accuses US of ‘cold war thinking’ over Taiwan arms deal.” 1 Feburary 2010. The Guardian. May 2018.
Fell, Dafydd. Government and Politics in Taiwan. Routledge Research on Taiwan, 2018.
Kan, Shirley A. China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy Key statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei. Congressional Research Service, 2011.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. Penguin Books Ltd, 2012.
Lampton, David, et al. PBS FRONTLINE. 2001. April 2018.
If globalized economic openness is causing the labor market to fluctuate then we see a trend of OECD countries in which income inequality is widening. Industrial democracies are living in a post-industrial world. Businesses that were formerly domestic industrial sectors are now outsourcing causing a restructuring of the labor market. In this paper I will look why this economic globalization has made income inequality worse in some countries than in others since the 1980s. In Japan, the United States of America, and Germany; income inequality has stemmed from political causes such as lack of access to quality education, redistributive welfare policies, and the falling rate of unionization.
Income inequality is important to study because a more economically equal society will contribute to a stronger vibrant democracy. This requires an analysis of labor, government, and business relations to determine to what extent education, redistribution of welfare, and unionization or lack thereof are contributing to income inequality. I found that Germany, Japan, and the United States were similar in that they had the largest GDPs in the world besides China and the European Union, but they are less than average when it comes to income inequality. The Japanese Gini Coefficient as of 2015 is 0.33. The German Gini Coefficient is 0.289, and America’s Gini Coeffect is 0.394. (OECD) They all have strong technology and service sectors, are generally conservative, though they display a range of cultural differences especially between the western and eastern countries, and admittedly have very different geographies. One similarity between these countries is demographic challenges that due to low fertility rates, another is gender inequality, threatening to damage sustained long-term growth and above all are largely import heavy economies. Germany possesses a social market economy, Japan’s economic structure could be described as a state-led market economy, and America is best put as a liberal corporatist mixed economy.
In the new economically globalized world the labor-intensive products that used to be the bread and butter of the easily unionized manufacturing industry are now being made abroad or are otherwise automated. According to Barkin, this outside sourcing, meaning the importation of foreign parts and assemblies or even whole products, is creating a demand that automation is meant to fill. Employers prefer automation because its cheap and efficient labor that you don’t have to negotiate with. This increase in automation calls for more cognitive skills, and is accompanied by a simultaneous decrease of demand for the traditional manual labor.
It’s plain to see that income inequality is lower in countries were average education achievement is higher. In fact, “the Gini index decreases by one percent as secondary enrollment rates rise by 0.25 percent.” The more people that have access to high-level quality education, the more people that are going to do better in a labor market that prioritizes high skill jobs. (Checchi) By raising the average education and opening up these employment opportunities, these efforts will contribute to a greater rate of social mobility meaning a lower long-term inequality.
It stands up to reason that individuals from poor families are more likely to borrow to finance their schooling. A common structural market failure appears when people from poor families are discriminated against because of their lack of resources. Although more education is associated with higher expected income, people will only invest in education so long as they get a marginal return. As a result, the poor will not invest in education and remain unskilled and earn a low income perpetuating the unskilled status of their dynasty. The increased costs of education can be solved by redistribution achieved by fiscal policy in order to open up opportunities for tertiary education. People who come from lower incomes and receive these benefits would be able to overcome the opportunity costs of forgone income due to school attendance. (Checchi)
States with strong labor unions were likely to experience decreases in equality. This is due to the fact that labor unions more accurately represent the working poor’s interests and contribute to a more equal distribution of monetary resources. An ability to weigh in on business’s decisions is integral for the working class’s closure of the income gap. Social spending, progressive taxation, and higher wages for workers all contribute to a more equal distribution of social services. (Xu) Trade liberalization will increase income inequality in countries with high skill high technology labor. For example, the United States has been exporting technology intensive products and importing the cheap labor-intensive products. By importing these labor-intensive products that it used to make itself, the United States is losing unskilled jobs abroad. (Xu)
For the last two decades, Japan’s policies have not kept up with its post-war economic miracle when their bubbled economy popped in the 90s. Japan is unique among the countries I chose because they had just entered the industrial market in the 1980s. Japan is an example of the State-led model and is a hybrid of a social market economy and a liberal market economy. It’s considered quasi-social because there is a very strong state bureaucracy that is the foundation of the formation of Japan’s welfare state. They currently have a stellar unemployment rate of 3.1 percent and 16.1 percent of their GDP comes from trade. (OECD) In Japan, 50.5 percent of adults have a college education and often scores in the top five for major subject’s proficiency such as math and science (OECD) Workers receive generous training and strong internal promotion practices as a chief source of skill generation. This on the job human capital investment is integral to the Japanese principle of lifetime employment. There is limited wage variation across firms but within firms the declining role of seniority and merit-based raises influence the widening wage determination. (Katz)
Japan’s relatively low levels of social expenditure matches that of the United States. However, Japan categorizes welfare differently than the US. They forgo spending on social welfare and instead put that money towards investment in a very high level of expenditure towards public works. They have weak social regulation and strong economic regulations. Japan’s social insurance and healthcare system was built after the German model. Japan is the opposite of the United States in terms of its approach to the connotation of Welfare, even though they have the same levels of expenditure on social insurance as the US. In Japan, welfare is a very good word, but the Japanese tend to focus on the National Burden ratio instead, meaning the division of the sum of the tax payment and the social security contributions through national income. (Takegawa) Occupational welfare is substituted for social expenditure and in this way Japan lowers its national burden ratio. In fact, Japan even approaches welfare not from the class perspective like both Germany and the United States, but approaches it by addressing inequality though regions. These strong public works programs create employment in underdeveloped regions and thereby create a lot of protection for the low-productivity sectors. Due to the lack of competition, it is now becoming difficult for private companies to provide this welfare. There are essentially no other social protections other than healthcare and basic pensions. (Takegawa)
In the 90s, Japan’s employment protection was strongly regulated. (Takegawa) Its labor market has been subject to deregulation in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although Japan entered the 80s with already a very decentralized enterprise union structure, in 1989 power resources declined as a result of the process of labor market deregulation as it lowered union density by increasing the number of unorganized non-regular workers, meaning they work part-time. Japanese union density hit 17.7% in 2013. The 1993 part-time work law deregulated the labor market by allowing more part time workers into the system, thereby fragmenting the union density. Rengo was established in 1989 and was created to bring more strength to the bargaining position of unions to promote policy and other institutional reforms. Rengo initially had 8 million people, but in 2012, there were 6.8 million members. The decline in union membership causes for there to be less dues. Without a sufficient amount of dues there will be less resources for the unions to pull through their collective bargaining initiatives. (Watanabe) Japanese union structures are noteworthy because of its enterprise union structure. Work practices traditionally include individualized worker involvement in workplace quality, senior-based pay systems and a commitment to life-time employment. (Katz) Due to a significant increase in part time workers in the service sector there has been a resulting replacement of regular workers. In fact, Unions were entirely removed from the policy making process in 2001. A new labor standards law radically changed the structure of collective-bargaining in Japan. The new standards law that went into effect mandates that unions need to represent a majority of workers, meaning ¾ of the workers are needed to make collective agreements. (Watanabe)
Out of all the countries I selected, the United States has the worst record on income inequality and education. According to Hoagland, “From 1979 to 2007 for the top 1% of earners had an income growth of 275% where the bottom 20% saw growth of 18%” This is a trend that is more significant in the United States than any other OECD country. It’s empirically shown that for US and Germany, labor market participation increases significantly when education levels exceed from less than compulsory to secondary and post-secondary education. However, in the United States, 9.9 percent of adults have below an upper secondary education, meaning a high school diploma, 45.7 percent of its working age population has a college degree. 44.5 percent of adults have a high school degree. (OECD) Not to mention that tertiary education currently sits at an extremely high price for a prospective student.
Unemployment and poverty risk have increasingly become concentrated among workers with low levels of education while the government has become more permissive of cuts in unemployment generosity and income assistance to the poor. Reductions in unemployment insurance benefits give an explanation of why redistribution responsiveness to unemployment has declined. (Pontusson) 1996 welfare reform has significantly retrenched the social protection for single parents. (Seeleib-Kaiser) Even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health care is not universal and our insurance policy regarding healthcare is fragmented and highly contentious with progress seemingly not in sight. Liberal market economies such as America depend on market provision and means tested public social policy to provide for its most vulnerable.
There has been a OECD trend that there has been increasing decentralization within collective-bargaining systems. Starting in the 1980s membership in unions have declined to a significant degree. According to Xu, “de-unionization accounts for 20 percent of the increase in wage inequality for US males in 1980s” this is indicative of the trends that have followed us these last three decades. Strong unions would ensure that its workers were taken care of because they would have power and sway with the workplace and have been seen to coordinate and make sure that the worker has a say in management. (Xu) Diverse variations in industrial relations in America that used to create competition and job fluidity are also now creating problems. There is no significant employment protections to speak of in the United States. Outsourcing has exacerbated the fragmentation of American decentralized unionization in fact, according the Bureau of Labor statistics, union membership is at an all-time low at 11.8 percent from 20.1 percent in 1983. Unions are no longer able to organize workers to the extent that they used to. The US has a voluntarist employment relation with significant difference among sectors in how they approach unionization and the structure of union representation. (Katz)
Although German income distribution has been generally stable, differences became apparent in the 1990s and have largely been driven by atypical employment. In the mid-1970s 85 percent of employment was full time, but by the mid-1990s it had fallen to 67 percent, as a result median wages have fallen, and the wealth gap has increased. Germany does very well on the education front meaning that they get more citizens through high school than either Japan or the United States. In Germany, 58.2 percent of working age adults have an upper secondary education, 28.3 percent have a college degree, and 13.5 percent of adults have not graduated upper secondary education. (OECD) However, College education is provided free from the government, which as seen its benefits since Germany is the country I picked with the lowest rates of income inequality. Occupational apprenticeship plays a key role in Germany, it is integrated in the high school curriculum and operates as a de facto training skill structure. Germany is unique because it has experienced the reunification of west and east. At the time of reunification East German GDP per captia was only 57 percent of western levels. Incorporating east Germany into the west has proved to be difficult as the economy of the east was restructured
Germany social security expenditure in 1996 was 37.68 percent of their national income. The reason that expenditure is so high is because, social welfare is a right that every German citizen has due to their constitution. They have free health care and education, while still providing most of the free services through private sectors. (Takegawa) But due to slow growth and a growing government debt, there has been some welfare retrenchment. Retrenchment leads to a decrease of actual social cohesion, key to Germany’s solidarity, because collective redistributive public benefits are cut. They have government-sponsored job training programs and maternal leave. In the early 1990s, the Kohl government cut more than 800 billion dollars’ worth of social benefits. (Lane) Negotiated benefits by unions have historically compensated losses caused by retrenchment policies. “Retrenchment describes policy changes that either cut social expenditure, restructure welfare state programs to conform more closely to the residual welfare state model.” (Trampush)
A good quote by Seeleib-Kaiser that notes Germany’s distinction from both Japan and the United States; “Germany continues to constitutionally guarantee a legal entitlement to minimum social protection for all citizens, such a guarantee does not exist in the United States” Germany’s conservative welfare states rely on social insurances to provide protection with the aim of social cohesion and stability. However, there is a significant problem of dualism where insiders get most of the benefits and the outsiders within a welfare system are not being provided with adequate redistribution. To qualify for welfare in the US, your social protection is dependent on occupation and industrial citizenship. But in Germany it’s a different story all together, welfare is an integration of social insurance schemes that attempt to minimize the breadth and depth of outsider status. While welfare benefits are decreasing in post-industrial society, unionization is too. The service sector is more difficult to unionize due to the nature of the industry.
Unemployment was short term during the 70s, as 60-70 percent of unemployed were entitled to unemployment insurance benefits at a replacement rate of 68 percent. But now, long term unemployment is a bigger issue due to the lack of labor flexibility in the market making business less likely to employ workers who are difficult to fire. (Seeleib-Kaiser) Germany’s unions are distinguished by a system of codetermination, meaning that the workers have a right to participate in management decisions. This is demonstrated through their heavy use of works councils. Sectoral collective bargaining also plays a substantial role in Germany’s labor negotiations. Renowned for the strength of its inclusive unions. Extensive coverage of its sectoral collective bargaining system, and the dual structure of broad employee rights through works councils and supervisory boards. Like Japan and the United States, membership declined in unions especially in the 1990s. There has been some work organizational restructuring but not on the level of the United States and Japan. However, with the introduction of framework agreements are becoming more prevalent in collective bargaining, the decision-making procedures are becoming increasingly decentralized. Firms are subject to limitations due to codetermination that is within the law. But even works councils are experiencing declines, it decreased from 36,300 in 1980 to 33,000 in 1994(Katz) This decentralization of managerial responsibility has made it difficult for unions to know who to negotiate with. The has been a weakening of integral structures of the balance of roles between unions and works councils. Another hurdle to unionization is the new “mini-job” which was introduced in 2003. It was initially to create work incentives for those with low income and to address the high unemployment rate especially of low-skilled people. Although marginal employment is higher for women and students in the short run, it is questionable that these mini-jobs will actually lead to full time employment. (Caliendo) The result does not spell well for income inequality and seems to have created an overall decrease in full time work and an increase in part time work.
All in all, access to education, wealth redistribution, and the prevalence of unions all play a pivotal role in the rate of income inequality. The Japanese Gini Coefficient as of 2015 is 0.33. The German Gini Coefficient is 0.289, and America’s record on inequality 0.394. Wealth redistribution is going to play a bigger and bigger role in the coming years as the rise in inequality affects children’s wealth backgrounds rise simultaneously. (Pfeffer) Distribution of educational opportunity to the coming generations will line up with extreme wealth inequality. The more affluent “insiders” will be able to afford the rising costs of education without taking out the undue burden of student loans. Affordability of education, worker’s rights, and a basic standard of living is crucial to creating and finding jobs that would combat income inequality in the changing labor landscape. This is especially relevant when looking at United States’ higher education system. Germany leads the pack when addressing access to education, especially since higher education is free in Germany. Although Education is not free in Japan it does better on income inequality than the United States, but that seems to be due to the Japanese commitment to lifetime employment through on-the-job training by firms. Japanese enterprise unionism is unique, individualized, and effective although not as effective as it used to be. Across the board, rates of union membership have decreased as well as the structures that allow unions to be effective. Full-time employment, worker’s rights, and investing in human capital are all key to creating a thriving workforce that allows the people to provide for themselves and we’ve seen a reduction in the availability of those jobs for the unskilled worker.
CIA World Fact Book (2015). Germany. Japan. History Reference Center
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Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin. “Welfare Systems in Europe and the United States: Conservative Germany Converging toward the Liberal US Model?.” International Journal of Social Quality, vol. 3, no. 2, Winter2013, pp. 60-77. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3167/IJSQ.2013.030204.
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