Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hello Dr. X

This is the second time this semester that someone has stood at the front of a classroom and said there is nothing wrong with sweatshops.  Here was my response…

Hello Dr. X,
 Today in class you made the statement that Nike sweatshops actually increase the standard of living for those who work in them.  I am a development studies student and haven’t come across this information in my research on sweatshops.  What I have heard about the Nike factories in Indonesia is that even though the wage is triple the minimum it is still below subsistence levels.  The low minimum wage is an indicator of the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) which are designed to manage foreign debt.  The SAPs cut public spending and decrease trade and labour protection.  The goal of the SAPs is to increase GDP and by attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  The problem with FDI is that it chases the lowest wages.  A case study I did of Mauritius showed that when the country was starting to develop and the average wage in an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) reached one dollar the companies started to pull out and move to China because they could pay thirty cents an hour.  The result was that unemployment rose.  I have attached my paper if it interests you.
 I also share your scepticism of Ethical Mutual Funds.  Whose Ethics are applied?  I might have a different ethical standard than the fund manager, etc.  But I still think that ethical investing is the way to go.  In economics a standing principle is educate the populous and they can use their economic vote (I know it is a bad paraphrase).  If people were given the opportunity to convey their values through their investment I think the world would be a better place.(image placeholder) 
As a development studies student I have seen the underside of the corporate world.  The corporation is legally obliged to place shareholders above any ethical concerns (except where regulated).  I am convinced that the best way to fight poverty is from the inside of a corporation, but I am also under the impression that the higher position I attain in a corporation the less freedom and ability I will have to change things because of my obligation to the shareholders because everyone is out to make the quick buck.  If I pay wages higher than I have to I will be fired and someone will be next in line to replace me.  But what if shareholders got political and demanded that certain policies be put in place?  Things could change.  For example, about a week ago the second largest oil spill since Exxon Valdez happened off the Alaskan coast.  A Shell oil pipe burst.  The union said that the maintenance was a month behind and the maintenance inspection crew was being cut from 8 to 6. (here is a link to the article: It is these kinds of calculated risks that corporations take that just aren’t worth it if we start thinking outside of the economic models.  One of the things that prompted me to write this email was that you told the class that investing with anything other than good economics is a bad decision.  It might not be the best thing for my portfolio, but if everyone shuts off their conscience to conduct business what happens to the world?  We are facing the 6th major geological extinction.   
(image placeholder)Sorry if any of this came across as emotional, I just want to discuss as two decent people with different opinions.  
 Thank you for your time, I know the life of a professor is very busy.  

So what are your thoughts?  Anything to add, or that you disagree with? Post your comments and let the discourse begin.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Allen Ginsberg - Howl

This was a depressing read.  It was almost as bad as Heller.  

Ginsberg portrayed addiction, chasing the next hallucination is what life becomes.  One thought I had was I hope they straighten out and settle down because I feared for their safety.  But living safely becomes living to pay off the mortgage and getting the kids to school.  I think to get anywhere in life it has to be a balance of not holding on to what we have to an extent that it prohibits us from expanding our consciousness.  But the picture I have of expanding consciousness doesn’t include addiction and chasing hallucinations.  

I think this discussion provides a good framework to analyze Nietzsche.  His idea of the priestly and aristocratic ethic does have some currency with me, but reading the oval portrait also makes me think that we have to consider those around us.  In my life I find that I need the support of the people around me to succeed and they need me as well.  In my first reading of Nietzsche I didn’t find a consideration for others.  I could buy into a hermit like solitude, but not the abusively selfish attitude found in the oval portrait.  

Unfathomable Mystery

Aldous Huxley - The Doors of Perception

I work at a street ministry with addicts.  Drugs is not something to play around with and the friends that I have made, the people I help, are my heroes.  I think getting off drugs is one of the hardest things to do in life and I don’t think I have what it takes to go through what these people go through.  

With that said I appreciate what the introduction said about it being a travesty that people use Huxley as an excuse for reckless destructive drug-use.  Huxley identified a need for people to be transported from their lives into a different realm.  People do this through religious experience and more common in our time, through alcohol and drugs.  

Huxley talked about how having a single experience with mescalin can change the way a person sees the world.  “All I am suggesting is that the mescalin experience is what Catholic theologians call ‘a gratuitous grace,’ not necessary to salvation but potentially helpful and to be accepted thankfully” (594).  This quote encapsulates Huxley’s portrayal of the experience.  

I can appreciate Huxley’s position.  He is trying to approach the “unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”(598) In this last year I have been faced with characters in literature that have changed my life because they seem to have attained this “unfathomable Mystery.”  Any gain in understanding comes very slowly and with much pain.  

I just watched a documentary on steroid use.  It is a drug that athletes use to enhance performance.  I think that is a good analogy for what Huxley is talking about.  Drugs can be a temptation, like the athlete who wants to get better results for the amount of work that he has to put in.  Maybe LSD and Mescalin are short cuts for those of us probing the “unfathomable Mystery.”

It seems like a short cut though; Huxley said that the same state of mind can be attained through fasting and sensory deprivation.  I think maybe the journey is part of the discovery.  I guess when it comes down to it I am suspicious of drugs, maybe because of my work (and the fact that I could lose my job).  I think I am scared of drugs too because there are people that are a lot stronger than I am who have hit bottom because of drugs.  In the words of Huxley, it is a door that will stay closed for me.  

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Is the intelligent woman an image in existance?

Simone De Beauvoir - The Second Sex

The Concepts:
Both sexes need each other, but we need each other for different reasons, those different reasons extend out of biology and culture.  This is where the truth ends and the false value judgments begin. Men and women form a whole. Men are.  Women are the other; whatever is left over in a whole.  

It is easy for women to accept the position of a thing.  It comes with the benefit of physical security and all the major decisions taken care of.  

What would happen if women were offered the same freedoms as men?  

Women can use their sex appeal to gain power over men, but it isn’t a lasting power and it isn’t equality.  It is becoming a thing.

Have things gotten better for women?  They have, it isn’t all the way there, but it is getting there.  Women are able to live in Canada without getting married, they can have jobs and property and everything else that is essential to living.  The space has been created for adventurous women to live their lives.  

But then there is culture, even though there is a space for women to live their lives it is still a man’s world.  A couple month’s ago McLean’s Magazine had a women in a bar flashing, the title read something like “Since when did women become chauvinistic pigs?”  Then there was the red mile, why did women expose themselves to celebrate?  Men sure didn’t take their clothes off, and if they did there wasn’t a group of women crowding around him to hoot n’ holla.  

I think the intellectual image is still a male image.  If a girl is smart she is extremely introverted.  Smart and beautiful and opinionated and well read just don’t go together as an image.  I think there are women like that, but opinions are tucked out of sight.  A friend once told me that her mom told her not to be so opinionated because then she wouldn’t get a husband.  She shrugged it off, but it is a cliché that we shrug off and laugh about even though it contains too much truth.  I am not sure about this point though, I guess I should ask some girls to comment.  

I think that intelligent is definitely an image a guy can buy into (The tweed jacket and glasses and button up shirts with the shoulder bag).  Does the same image exist for girls, and is it a cool image?  Pls. comment.

I guess the whole direction I am going with this is that women aren’t encouraged to be the philosopher types.  They aren’t supposed to be into high culture (unless it is dance or opera or ballet).  But discussing morality, or how society should be run is “the man’s domain.”  Even if careers have been opened up to women the world of Plato and Aristotle hasn’t.   That is reserved for after dinner brandy and cigars in the drawing room.  (Read: rich white men are all that matter, everyone else is immanent as de Beauvoir would say).  

Friday, March 24, 2006

Stand up and say NO!

Elie Wiesel - Night

This is a story of a man and his father in a concentration camp.  The scene presented is when the day is over and selection is called.  Selection is when the sick, weak, and the old are marked to go to the furnaces.  

Two old men are marked to go, but the leader of their unit tells them they won’t be going to die.  They ask him to repeat himself and he gets angry for not trusting him.  They don’t want to hope because hope can be taken away.

The next day Elie’s father is told to stay behind.  Elie finds it hard to get through the day. They can take away his father.  

For Bettelheim and Solzhenitsyn convictions are something they can take away from you as well.  But once you have given up your convictions life slips away.

Combine this with C.W. Mills and the result is Heller.  Just to unpack that sentence a bit… to succeed in our system we have to adjust our values, make a compromise here and there.  The only problem is that giving up our values makes us hollow men and women (as TS Eliot would say).  

The Nazis did it by taking things away, Capitalism did it by giving us more stuff.
The Solution: Stand up and say NO.  No to burying people alive and no to going against our convictions because it is easier.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Security or Freedom?

Virginia Woolf - A Room of One’s Own

Women are present in fiction but not in history.  “Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is insignificant.” The truth of the situation is that women have been oppressed; they are not heroic in reality.  Any efforts at heroism and individuality are stifled.  Heroism is for men, the role of women is to support her hero (behind every great man stands a great woman).  

Women are not recorded as contributors to history because their role is to support the contributors or heroes of society.  Woolf blames this on the abuse of women and the fact that women have put up with it.  At the end of the day she thinks women could change this if they broke the dependence on men for the essentials of life.  Women should be given “500 a year and a room.”

Maybe this is why women have better hygiene and a cleaner life style than men.  For men, cleaning isn’t as important as having free time.  Our mothers have been there to clean up after us and they dragged our sisters along the path to cleanliness, leaving the sons to do what they please.  Right from the get go we have more decisions and freedom.  Girls are told what they are supposed to do and boys have to decide.  

This is my struggle with my wife.  I want to help with house work and have an equal relationship.  But when I do clean up it is a choice, for her it is just another part of the day.    

It really gets back to the Dostoyevsky’s grand inquisitor; do we want to be told what to do and what our place is, or do we want the freedom and responsibility to make our own decisions and find our own place in this world?  

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

White lies and fear

Joseph Heller - Something Happened

This reading was a cold slap in the face.  The main character (I don’t even know his name) leads a miserable life that has a lot in common with the prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp.  The cold slap comes from the fact that I recognize and can identify with too much of his life.  

Fear: Everyone is afraid of someone.  The people he is afraid of are afraid of the 12

No Rebellion

Realizes the rebellion he is allowed (cheating on his wife) isn’t even that exciting, and it isn’t original, it is learned from those around him.

His wife is afraid of him

His daughter is no longer unique

“I always have the disquieting sensation that I am copying somebody” (361)

“The problem is that I don’t know who or what I really am.” (362

He chews is finger nails “And I don’t think, at this stage, that I would want to live without it” (365)

Can’t deal with sick people because they aren’t normal and don’t demand respect

In a concentration camp the idea is to take the soul out of the person.  They do this by taking away any: freedom to act; individuality (no heroes or martyrs).  Bettelheim said that the threat of something happening was more prolific than the actual occurrence. In Heller the threat isn’t spoken.  It isn’t death, it is destitution.  

The difference between Heller and Bettelheim is the threat of destitution as opposed to death.  In both cases the threat is made more often than it is carried out, but the example is there to see.  The hope is pleasing the guard and easing the pain and finding some respect and for Heller it is Wealth, which is the merit for respect.  

The difference between death and destitution is that in destitution a person can still find self-respect and happiness.  In fact that person can probably find truth and beauty a lot easier in destitution than in wealth.  I would say Jesus and Buddha were destitute.  They probably would have qualified to be told to get a job and have change thrown at them by Ralph Klein.

By making the comparison I don’t want to degrade the horrific nature of the holocaust.  The holocaust was people subjugating their conscience to something that gave them value.  But that also sounds familiar.  
In Heller we are the victims and the Nazis all at the same time because we have put ourselves in the prison and hold the gates shut and kill ourselves and devalue ourselves.  There is no supreme leader.  This is INSANE!  Western society is completely absurd.  

Maybe the rebellion can’t be about changing the whole system but about changing the way I live my life.  

Fashion is a lie to make us buy more clothes.  What if I just wear the clothes I have?  Not go out and buy rebellious clothes but wear whatever is in my closet.  To do this I have to reject the idea that what I wear defines who I am.  There are all these little lies that are told to us in so many ways that aren’t verbal.  The great part about this is that it can be completely original.  To get to this though we have to deal with the feeling that we need to copy someone.  Because whatever we do will be copying someone if we don’t deal with the need to copy.  Maybe it is a fear of being original.  

I don’t want to go through life being afraid.  
Employment:  I am so afraid of being fired that I am afraid of disappointing my boss.  He is in a position to tell me if I am successful.  It is the same with teachers.  Authority in general is in the position to tell me that I am a failure.  Only immediate authority though, those that have observed my work.  My boss’s boss’s Boss, I could care less what he has to say about me.  

Maybe its destitution (if you don’t pass this high school math midterm you will die alone and miserable).  Success is linked to acceptance.  The more successful I am the more valuable I am, both at work and socially.  Without success life is over, it isn’t worth living.  

I think the little lie in this case is the one we felt in high school.  If I am not successful I will die miserable and alone.  

If we have a community money doesn’t have to be such a big part of our interactions.  People can do things for each other.  People can give and receive and depend on each other; the co-operative spirit.  So the truth is that if I fail at life I will probably die with all my close friends around me.  The person that dies alone and miserable is the one that spends his life working to succeed, there is just a point where our fear of being alone is twisted into our fear of not having money.  

I think there are probably a lot of those little white lies that are kind of cliché and we laugh at, but when we put some thought into what they actually do to us and how they control our lives.  Maybe we can stop believing them and find a life without fear?          

Monday, March 13, 2006

Truth and Beauty of Happiness?

Aldous Huxley - Brave New World

Truth and beauty or happiness?  

This is Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor all over again, just 600 years in the future instead of in the past and the dream of the Grand Inquisitor has been realized.  Humanity has been stabilized, and everyone is happy.  It cost people their freedom, but wasn’t it worth it?  To not have anymore racism, war, hate?  Contentment is given a place to proliferate and provide the ideal society.  My personal ultimate goal has been realized.  There is no more poverty.  I am unemployed thank God um, I mean Ford.  

So what if everyone lives half doped up, there is peace and everyone can get along.  Society exists in harmony with the world.

Sounds good doesn’t it.  Have a majority of every dream we have realized.  But it costs freedom and creativity.  The question is, is life worth living if it’s fake but happy?  
What’s our big attachment to reality and pain, growth?  

When it comes down to it though, I believe Solzhenitsyn when he said that it is a pretty weak ideology that is based on the lie that pleasure is what matters.  There is something more to life than pleasure.  There is something deep, embedded in existence that seems to only reveal itself in pain, and growth and reality.  I have a feeling that it isn’t a conscious thing, it is a synthesis of the diversity of this world and the next. It also produces a trust in humanity that they will one day get it, a mystical patience that goes beyond my own life time.

The hope of the existence of this mysticism is the only thing that keeps me from Huxley’s Brave New World.  The Lawyer, 3 Hermits and Dostoyevsky’s Jesus really screwed me up.  Who knew reading 40 pages could change a person’s life.

A second Thought…
There is always divinity.  
Zeus, God, Christ, Mohammed, Science, and for Huxley, Control and Ford… the list goes on… materialism, pleasure, a mortgage, compassion, and on…

I use divinity to describe the force in a person’s life that they obey, sometimes blindly, sometimes not, and worship a bit.  I guess my point is that everyone devotes their life to something.  Just make sure it is worth your life.  

I borrow this idea from a Christian Bumper sticker that I have become convinced has some truth… I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?  

Conviction & Choice

Bruno Bettelheim - Behaviour in Extreme Situations: Coercion

Bettelheim comes to the same conclusion as Solzhenitsyn.  People need convictions to survive.  It is the last realm of freedom in a situation where everything else is taken away.  

There is a certain point where life just isn’t worth living, and that is the point where life becomes more important than essential convictions.  After a person crosses the line of conviction the will to live is lost and death comes quickly.  

But how can a person determine their own line?  I don’t think it can be determined until every small choice becomes a choice between life and death.  The question is: am I willing to die for this conviction really and truly.  

Jesus said “Those who love their life will lose it.”  He also said “Man can not live on bread alone.”  We need choice.

The camps weren’t about extermination, simply killing the body.  The camps were about taking the life out of the body.  Proving the hypothesis that Jews were a race, but they weren’t human.  Choice and convictions makes us human and they tried to take that away.  

I would like to think that I wouldn’t make it past the gates because of my convictions, but that is a pretty easy thing to say sitting here with my self-respect intact.

I guess when it comes down to it our self-respect is tied to our convictions, not our position.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Responsibility and Procedure

Hannah Arendt - Eichmann in Jerusalem

“Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it - the quality of temptation.” (45)

My wife is a nurse and I am work at a shelter.  Both of us have to write down our interactions with the people we work with.  In both of our jobs we spend about a third of our shifts covering our asses.  If anything goes wrong we can just look it up and show that we followed procedure.  This and Eichmann have a lot in common; personal responsibility, how we as a society deal with failure, and hierarchy/power.  It is contrasted to Solzhenitsyn’s conscience and spirit.

Eichmann and I are in positions close to what is actually happening on the ground.  The little guy is the one who sees the context and our bosses might make a better call in the context, but our boss’s procedure manual won’t.  A procedure manual doesn’t understand the context.  But everyone follows the procedure manual very willingly because I am not doing this job to do the best job I can do, I am doing this job trying not to get in trouble.  I started out ignoring procedure.  I got in trouble.  I follow procedure.  It happens this way because my boss wrote the procedure manual and when I disagree with him it is my position against his.  He wins.  

In many ways Eichmann is a better employee than I am.  He followed the procedure manual with his heart.  He believed it was his duty to subjugate his better judgement to that procedure manual.  I recognize his defence from my own line of work.  When something goes wrong I can bring up the logs and show that I followed procedure.  What went wrong isn’t my fault; it’s just an anomaly the procedure didn’t take into account.  The point is that I avoid responsibility for my actions.  The truth is that I have to avoid responsibility because if I screw up it isn’t a learning experience it is grounds for being fired.  

The Nuremberg trial threw out the policy manual and made people responsible for their actions.  It makes me wonder how I would stand up if a society that didn’t have the same idea of what is acceptable looked at my life.  

What Eichmann has to say to me is only half of the issue raised by Arendt.  The other half is understanding how a society could turn evil to the extent that Nazi Germany did.  

Hitler became a divinity.  Eichmann took Kant’s categorical imperative; do unto others as you would have them do unto you and changed it just a bit.  It became do unto others as Hitler does to them.  It went from a theory of social contract to obedience to the Fürhrer.  How did this happen?  Everyone that Eichmann was socially subordinated to was doing it.  It was the correct thing to do.  What if the politically correct thing to do was to hate the Jews instead of refrain from racism?  

Eichmann had part of it right.  It isn’t the law (or PC) that should be followed, but the spirit behind the thing, and interacted with in a way that will change us.  He forgot conscience though, and in the end he had to answer for his own actions, not for the pressures that informed those actions, but his actions, his role in the genocide.  

Conscience and Spirit

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago

It is a “pitiful ideology which holds that human beings are made for happiness.” (114)

Solzhenitsyn is in the First World War and is complaining by letter to a friend also in the war. This lands him in jail. He gives the sense that the only justice is having the right friends and believing the right things. There just isn't any room for dissent, or failure. People that were captured by the Germans were considered spies and upon release and return to Russia they were arrested. The law is interpreted liberally in whatever way suits the interrogator to help him get his job done.

How did the justice system disintegrate? Shakespeare’s Macbeth killed the king to become king and continued the killing to stay king.  It only worked for so long because after a while he didn’t have the mental justification for his actions.  Ideology solves that problem.  It can turn a wrong action into something that is right.  Depriving a man of rights and justice is wrong, but it can be justified by the ideology that it is for the good of society.  A large part of that ideology that Solzhenitsyn doesn’t talk about is fear, the fear of the capitalist forces, the terrorists.  Hmm, sounds familiar.

So how does a person face this dehumanizing ideology and come out as human?  By accepting that “My life is over… Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.” (97)  The interrogators and guards always wanted the prisoners to sign a confession of guilt that twisted their words, or be an informant in the camp.  It was an exercise in power; they would control a person using threats.  One of the characters was threatened that if he didn’t do what they wanted his family would be thrown into the camps as well.  This got to him, but he eventually came to the conclusion that they would be thrown into the camps anyway.  They served their ideology, not any agreement they made with him.  There is some truth to the cliché “we don’t deal with terrorists.”  Except it is usually a guy in a bank, not the government of the USSR or the patriot act.  

The one thing that struck me that I think I take for granted is that I have a lot of stuff on this blog that is anti-corporatist but I am not thrown in jail for it.  Mind you, being in jail would stifle my consumption, so that just wouldn’t make sense.  

The next part made me question the thankfulness for my freedom; maybe it is just a façade for my corruption.  Solzhenitsyn said that those who lost their humanity lost it in freedom, not in captivity.  

I watched Mr. Deeds this weekend and his big speech at the end was to ask what people wanted to be when they were children, then what they had turned out to be.  Everyone made sacrifices on the way.  Another cliché… no one will say they wish they had spent more time at work on their death bed.  I think this makes a lot of people want to take expensive holidays that they have to spend more time at work to be able to afford, it encourages people to spend like tomorrow is their last day instead of living responsibly.  Reign in the spending and live how we know we should be.  

Solzhenitsyn has this to say “Do not pursue what is illusory - property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night.  Live with a steady superiority over life - don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not year after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.  It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold, and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides.  If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then who should envy? And why?  Our envy of others devours us most of all.” (100-1)

So what does it mean to retain my spirit and conscience?  It means I have to obey myself before any exterior voice.  Don’t be politically correct because you don’t want to offend anyone and just want to get along without any conflict.  This has nothing to do with being conscious or concerned with the lives of homosexuals or women.  Political correctness is obeying “the man.”  If I am going to be sensitive and change my language it should be because my conscience tells me it is the right thing to do.  This will happen after I become acquainted with the lived experiences of women and homosexuals.  

If I want to change someone’s language about women it shouldn’t be through using the power of the popular, it should be by showing the injustice.  Marilyn Warring uses time use graphs to compare men and women.  This gets the point that free-time shouldn’t be a function of sex.  

But back to the point, I have to live for myself, not making compromises.  Camus made the same point in the Guest.  This doesn’t mean that the world becomes a place where everyone fights for their ideologies.  It just means that my acceptance or rejection of your argument has nothing to do with how much I like you or want to be like you.  My accepting your argument has to do with my own conscience and spirit.  Because at the end of the day, that is what I am left with, that is what I have to answer for.  When the riot is over the consequences are dolled out to individuals.  

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No one wants peace but the bridge

Albert Camus - The Guest

Camus tries to show the absurdity of the world we live in through his writing.  The Guest is about a school teacher in a colony.  The authorities have captured a man and allot it to this teacher to deliver this prisoner to the next county.  

Two absurdities emerge about the system we live in.  The first is that of responsibility.  No one takes responsibility for actually completing the task, only their individual part in it.  The school teacher outright tells the guard that delivers the prisoner to him that he might not deliver the prisoner.  The guard’s only concern is that he will vouch that he has delivered him.  I have experienced this same thing in my professional life.  Everyone just writes down what happens and shows that they have followed procedure.  In the story the teacher doesn’t know why the man is imprisoned and so can’t make a choice as to what the right thing to do is.  The lack of information people have to work in is combined with a holy reverence for procedure and not ever being wrong because if I make 3 bad calls I lose my job.  Procedure becomes the replacement for good moral decision making.

The second absurdity that plagues humanity is that of the struggle between relationship and belief or ideology.  The guard accepts the teacher on the basis that they share the same values.  But the teacher also wants to relate to the prisoner which precludes a relationship with the guard.  This theme may be more of a projection than what is really in the story, but… the teacher just wants to have a relationship with both the guard and the prisoner, but to get it he has to make social sacrifices.  If he accepts the prisoner the guard might not trust him and he will be alienated from the guard.  There are two sides that disagree and there is no room for sitting on the fence and playing peacemaker between the two groups.  

Two final thoughts,
Do what you think is right because in the end all you have is yourself.  (are relationships that I have to make sacrifices of my beliefs worth it? Are they even authentic relationships?  How do I avoid the alienation that stems from differing beliefs?)

My name means peacemaker, it has shaped who I am.