Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Changes in this Blog

Having considered the matter, some changes in this blog are coming. This blog was originally intended to showcase and promote my writing projects. Then, when I made a decision to set the serious writing aside for a year and focus on other things, I began posting roughly once a week on refugee issues, Burmese refugee concerns and issues related to Burma (Myanmar), and events in that tragic nation.

My thought was that since refugees need a great deal of help, and many who work with them do not really know how to provide this help effectively, I could make a difference by providing a forum where people could find such information. I had, after all been working and volunteering with refugees and had seen many things that were done in a very poor and inefficient manner.

I'd still like to see this. I'd love to see this become a forum where such issues are actively discussed. However, few take the time to actually read the "how to run a furniture program" or "how to teach driving to refugee" articles. But again, and I genuninely mean this, should someone out there have a question on how to work with refugees that they think I can answer or share an opinion on, I'd love to help. Please write me. And if you think there's something along those lines that you'd like to share here, e-mail me and we'll talk. I'm open in principal to putting writings by others up here.

In the meantime, however, I'm getting a sense that blogs on refugees fall into roughly two categories. The first are the "anti-immigrant"/ "don't let them come here" blogs. Ideologically, they and I are generally not on the same page although I do think they serve a valid purpose because some refugee agencies, quite frankly, are poorly run and they don't police themselves. Whether it's through well-intended incompetence or just lack of experience, these places often are indeed a mess.

The other group of blogs are the "We must help the refugees" blogs. Most of these I've seen are the common sort of political blogs where someone comments on the newspaper. Some who follow this blog might recall an incident some months ago, where a young woman, a former refugee center volunteer, assured me there was no problem with domestic violence among refugees, at least none greater than anyone else, and then let it slip that she and her colleagues at that center had dismissed a former refugee from his volunteer position for stating that members of his own ethnic group had a serious problem with domestic violence. This was stupid, but it shows the sort of mentality that sometimes permeates refugee centers and leads to unrealistic programs. Personally, I was quite embarrassed when this incident made the pages of a couple of the right wing, anti-immigrant blogs.

I don't really have any interest in writing that sort of blog. There's doers and there's commentators and I try to be a doer.

These days I do a lot to help some refugees, a small number who I know personally and whose company I enjoy, and often the same ones who I convinced, cajoled and roped into volunteering to help me on the furniture van at the refugee center. They're usually young and often have no family here and lack experience in many bureaucratic and personal affairs. However, these matters are often proceeding in directions that are more a matter of individual problems and not the sorts of problems that people in other areas can generalize from.

I mean, do you really want to hear about me filling out motor vehicle department forms for someone who is young and new in this country and can't quite do it themselves? I don't think so, and even if you do, I don't think you're going to gain any new insights on the lives of refugees from reading about it, not to mention privacy issues as things slip from general sorts of common problems to more specific individual problems. Let's just say the folks who could not use an appointment book or change a light bulb last year, are now struggling through more complex bureaucratic and societal hassles as they adapt to life on this side of the world.

I also assist refugees through my activities teaching English as a second or other language and intend to continue doing that.

As for writing about general Burmese history and cultural affairs, I'd like to do that. However, time and other obligations generally preclude me from doing so. These obligations include not just school but other writing projects. And if I do decide to write about these issues, I must ask if there might not be a better forum to do it in.

In the meantime, I expect to keep this blog going. I expect to also use it to discuss more issues aside from refugees although refugee concerns will still be here. These will probably include my Peking Man digs history project, thoughts on skepticism (I am the author of two books on skepticism and strange claims) and other oddball issues that strike my fancy. Again, however, if there is something relating to issues that someone thinks I should cover, shoot me an e-mail and we'll discuss it.

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