Languages in NYC

New York City is known across the globe for many reasons. It is a popular tourist attraction for foreigners traveling to the United States. Many people think New York is a culturally diverse city, but many don’t understand how diverse. New York City is one of the most linguistically diverse places you can visit- it’s home to over eight hundred of them. The diversity does not stop at just conversation, but there is diversity in signs, business names, and even ads throughout the city.

There are many different and unique languages in this city, some of which are close to dying out. A language can die out from war, disease, or natural disatsters; but the most common is the “transition from one mother tongue to another”. This language shift can be caused by choice or under duress.

The Yiddish language was close to extinction in the 20th Century because the Jewish community moved from the lower east side to the suburbs. The next generation of children could understand Yiddish, but not speak or read it. This made Yiddish readings unecessary, so they were thrown out. Just when the Yiddish language was at it’s most desperate hour, technology made resources available in Yiddish and it is no longer in danger of dying out.

Language and culture go hand in hand. When a language dies out, so does a culture. A story has been wiped out and will not be recovered. It is important to cherish linguistically diverse communities and make sure they stay that way.



Imaginary Currency

Culture shock is hard enough to overcome, but can you imagine trying to learn an imaginary currency while adapting? In Haiti, their monetary transactions are often done in an “imaginary currency.” While we may think of imaginary currency as a credit card, it is a very different system in Haiti.

This economic system started with the Haitian livre because of the colonization of Haiti by France. The livre stood as the currency until the Haitian Revolution, when the Haitian Gourde was introduced. The conversion of the Gourde into other currencies was long and difficult, so to simplify things five Gourdes was seen as one Haitian dollar.

This was the case until the late 1980’s, when the official reckoning of the Haitian dollar was dropped. Although the official reckoning dropped, the practice of Haitian dollar’s is the most common in Haiti. Erin Taylor writes, “The Haitian dollar may well be imaginary. But then, so is all money, if you think about it.” The Haitian dollar is just as imaginary as a US dollar in this context. Both dollars are assigned an agreed upon worth, but that’s all it is. The only difference here is the actual printing of a dollar.


Nicety vs Necessity

In the United States, it’s hard to walk down the street without seeing someone absorbed in their cell phone. Cell Phones have become very popular, apparently outnumbering toilets! In her article, Oh, Shit! Mobile phones more common than toilets, Jenn Barr discussed this phenomenon and why she thought this isn’t a comparison that should be made.

Barr gives five reasons why “toilets are not like cell phones.” One of the reasons talks about nicety vs necessity. Toilets are often thought of “necessities” while cell phones are “niceties” ; however, Barr brings up the point that mobile phones can greatly help with businesses. This shows a direct reward for the people with mobile phones, while a toilet shows a very indirect reward (although an important one). In a developing world, this decision could be seen as more difficult than someone in a non developing context. Which is more important- the prevention of illness or a steady income?

The other reason Barr presented that stood out to me was that toilets are more important to women. For men, it is much easier to relieve oneself in public both physically and socially. For women, it is much more difficult. Physically, it is not as easy, but more importantly the social embarrassment placed upon women for this act is substantial. In addition to that, men in these countries are usually the providers of the family, therefore, they monitor the cash flow. Because women are still seen in the household, the toilet is more of a “feminine issue” . Mobile phones are crucial for business, therefore supporting the male roles.

In addition to this, there is the fact that individuals rarely need a personal toilet. Most toilets are shared while cell phones are not. When you think about it, the overall use of toilets and cell phones are really not very similar.


Climate Change is Partial to Men

Gender influences many aspects of a person’s life. It can influence what job they will have, how much they will get paid, what decisions they’ll make, and many more. There is, however, an difference in environmental impact associated with gender. In Climate Change Isn’t Gender Neutral, Merrill Singer writes about the different impacts of climate change to each respective gender. The stem of the gender-differentiated risks is the “normal” gender inequalities. These gender inequalities include education, access to income, and societal responsibilities.

In the low income area’s studied, women are the homemakers; acquiring water, watching crops, and up keeping household health maintenance. Events caused by climate change is making women’s chores more difficult. Not only that, but it makes women more susceptible to injury. Women are expected to continue with their chores, and any additional chores brought upon by extreme weather, while possibly fighting malnutrition, infection, or a combination of sorts. These health risks are not the only risks women face from climate change, there is a heightened risk of assault, theft, and rape in these types of conditions.

The current research of climate change is mostly focused on the physical consequences to the land we live on. The social aspect of this is equally as important. “Without attention to gender there can be no effective adaptation to the challenges of climate change and hence no sustainable human future.” It is important for us as a species to understand the social ramifications as well as the physical ones and how that could change the future.

“Climate Change Isn’t Gender Neutral” Merrill Singer

Structural Inequality in Charity?

If you’ve been on Facebook this summer, you have most likely seen a video of someone you know pouring ice cold water all over them. This was a very successful fundraiser that raised millions of dollars for ALS. Many people would agree that this was a wonderful success.

It is understood that ALS is a tragic disease and it is very fortunate that the campaign saw great success, but an interesting point is brought up by anthropologist Matt Thompson. “Is it no accident that charitable giving towards research on a rare disease that disproportionately affects the White population would become an Internet sensation?” This introduces the idea that there is structural inequality even in something as selfless as giving back.

As Thompson says, “It is a privilege and not an accident.” The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge going viral and a similar “Rice Bucket Challenge” not going viral is a prime example of the privilege we live. They are both tragic instances that warrant similar amounts of publicity (especially seeing how the “Rice Bucket Challenge” is a play off of the Ice Bucket Challenge), yet I have not seen any viral social media promoting campaigns like the Rice Bucket Challenge.

“Is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge about structural inequality?” Matt Thompson
“Introducing India’s Rice Bucket Challenge” Zachary Davies Boran

Hot “Felon”

A common fantasy for girls is to end up with a “bad boy.” Someone who drives a motorcycle, wears a leather jacket, and doesn’t care about the opinions of others. Recently, Jeremey Meeks, a man arrested for possession of marijuana and unregistered guns, was eye candy for tons of women all over the world.

Many people have been categorizing Meeks as a ‘criminal,’ and have used several endearing adjectives with it. These people, however, don’t understand the weight of their actions. Lindsey Feldman writes about the social cauterization of this act in her article “Hot felons: Branding Jeremy Meeks.” “There is a difference between recognizing crime and the people who commit them, and understanding the weight of the category ‘criminal’.” Calling someone a criminal is not differentiating the crime committed from the person. It is separating yourself from that person, putting them in a category below yourself.

We unintentionally cauterize people everyday. Using words to separate that person from yourself. These can be identifying words for people. Society has to be careful with what words they choose, however. The linguistic laziness that is prevalent can identify someone as such that they don’t deserve.

“Hot felons: Branding Jeremy Meeks” Lindsey Feldman