Ignorance is Not Bliss

More often than not, the true nature of a situation is distorted in order to fit preconceptions. The American media tends to follow such behavior by sometimes slanting the truth, whether accidentally or intentionally, so that real events act as a vehicle of promotion in favor of a certain viewpoint. The attack on the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 by the Taliban was a heartbreaking, gruesome incident that ended in the death of around 140 people, the majority being young children who had gone to school that morning like it was any ordinary day. They had not expected to die or see their friends die in front of them. They had not expected to see their teacher burned to death or watch as their beloved school was destroyed by the gun shots and violence of terrorists.

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Indeed, it was a day of mourning for not only the Pakistani families that suffered losses, but also for the rest of the world that was beyond shocked to witness such cruelty. Peshawar deserved nothing but prayers, yet instead some people and institutions decided to assert their ignorant opinions about the matter. A prime example is CNN, who reported that the children were murdered by the terrorists for going to school. The truth is that the children in the Peshawar school had fathers who were part of the armed forces – the same forces that are currently fighting the Taliban. Essentially, the children were targets of such a brutal attack because they were blood-related to the Taliban’s enemies. It’s factual reasoning, yet CNN found it a lot easier to blame it on an imaginary, anti-education belief in Pakistan. Why? Going to school and wanting to learn is not always castigated in Pakistan; in reality, the students of Army Public School and Degree College were encouraged by their scholarly environment to explore and grow, and the terrorists only took their lives because of who they were related to.

CNN also reported the Peshawar tragedy with the term “Pakistani Taliban” in the headline. In the letter that Pakistan addressed to CNN when the news was reported, the misnomer of a “Pakistani Taliban” was called out. Indeed, the main Taliban leaders live in Afghanistan, and hence, the Taliban is based in Afghanistan. By calling the Taliban “Pakistani,” CNN seems to be giving off the negative impression that Pakistanis are killing their own people. That is not at all the case; the Taliban is a radical terrorist organization that has no ties to the majority of peace-loving Pakistani residents. The Peshawar school shooting was a blatant act of terrorism, not an indication of civil war.

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At the time of the tragedy, there were many ignorant comments being thrown around about “Muslims” and Pakistan in general. But, it’s important to know that an entire race of people cannot be defined by the actions of one radical group. The people who were killed and the people that had to deal with tremendous loss in the wake of the disaster were simply human beings. Instead of exacerbating the incident, we should recognize the difference between an entire nation and a terrorist organization of the same religion, but a completely different interpretation of it. And instead of offering criticism, we should remember the innocent souls that were lost on that tragic night in Peshawar.

Tragedy Takes Place in New York

A tragedy that occurred Saturday afternoon in New York City has shocked people across the nation.  A gunman by the name of Ismaaiyl Brinsley fatally shot two New York policemen, fled into a nearby subway station, and shot himself as well. The officers were shot execution style, from close range, and what makes this tragedy even worse is the fact that both officers left their families behind.

The extent to which this killing will affect the officer’s families is beyond any of our imaginations. The first officer killed, Rafael Ramos, had a 13 year old son. The other officer, Wenjian Liu, had only been married for two months. After considering these facts and the impact of this event, the question still remains: what was the purpose of this assassination?

The only reason that seems plausible is that Brinsley was upset and disturbed after a grand jury refused to charge a white police officer who was involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. Garner’s death was back in July when a police officer tried to arrest him but instead ended up killing Garner. In addition, another decision in November not to charge a police officer for killing an unarmed teenager in Missouri was also met with a tremendous amount of protest.

In both these events, a African American man was killed by a white police officer. Brinsley, being an African American himself, seemed to want justice for the lives that been taken. But why kill Ramos and Liu? They only seemed to be doing their duty and weren’t even involved in either of the incidents that troubled Brinsley. If Brinsley was desperate for justice to be served, he should have gone and dealt with those people who were hindering this justice through a more peaceful manner.

Although, people are agitated and disturbed by the tragedy, did Brinsley’s action really accomplish much other than taking the lives of two innocent officers? Brinsley seemed to think that this act of revenge would make a difference and justice would be served. But can justice really be served after the deaths of Ramos and Liu? The rest of the nation also condemns the shootings and seems to be coming together to help each other and give each other support in the aftermath of the killings.

Investigations are still under proceedings so that the true motives behind Brinsley’s actions can be accounted for. But until then it is important that we respect the police for the work that they do each day and the time they spend outside of their homes to ensure our safety. Such an outrage should never take place again and people should come to terms with the enormous responsibilities that officers have and the gratitude that they truly deserve.

Overlooking African Americans

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, especially the Business sector, you would have noticed that the nation’s unemployment rate has dropped to quite a significant low. Currently at 5.8 percent (as of December 2014), US job recovery programs and aid continue to show the results of their fruitful efforts, along with the search of what economists call the “natural rate”, which stands around 4%. In addition to the overall national rate, local state unemployment rate have experienced drastic dips; as of November 2014, Nebraska holds as the state with the lowest unemployment rate, with a seasonally adjusted rate of 2.7%. It seems as if the nation’s moving onto the next stage of the business cycle after the Great Recession struck our country, yet, are we too hasty to make this judgement? Apparently, not everyone is benefiting from the improving economic conditions; the numbers of a certain minority group have shown otherwise.

From being first brought to the original 13 colonies as sources of labor to the passionate freedom marches during the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans have endured through generations of racial discrimination. Even today, they still do suffer discrimination, which is evident in their unemployment numbers. In New York, the African American unemployment rate is currently at a massive 13.2%, and has stagnantly maintained this high for a while. Not only are the unemployment rates high, but African Americans are quickly becoming misrepresented in the workforce. While many do hold a higher college degree, it was found that they often worked at lower end jobs like security guards or janitors, which do not require a sophisticated history of education.

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A visual representation of the unemployment rate gap between Whites and Blacks in NY.

And so, you may ask, what can we do about this overlooked problem? While it is not easy to combat the main factor preventing the prosperity of African Americans, race, it is possible to propel them to a better standing through education. In order for an increasing number of African Americans to be employed, education is a key factor that will give African Americans a form of respect. It’s best for them to achieve a higher college degree. Regarded as the “key to success”, higher college degrees often bring about a better quality of life and a higher income, as it is easier for higher degree holding African Americans to be accepted for jobs. When African Americans have higher degrees, they are more often than not accepted into higher positions, which will also protect them from being fired first. In addition to a college degree, attending career oriented colleges will help reduce the unemployment amongst African Americans. When one attends a career oriented college, and follows through, they are more likely to immediately get a job in the field after receiving the diploma.

So the next time you come across a news article flashing the drastic improvement of the US Economy, think twice before you fully believe it, and consider the minority groups like African Americans who may not be represented in the statistics.

Busy Busy Busy

When was the last time you looked down while walking and saw the ground? You probably don’t remember. Everyone is constantly on their cellphones either texting about their next meeting or responding to an “urgent” email. Our society demands a fast paced life in order to achieve success. We are always trying to do as many things as possible in the least amount of time. We’re too busy to do anything besides work. It’s great that we want to be efficient, but is our efficiency harming us?

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All of us have no doubt used the “I’m busy” excuse to get out of plans. This makes us look like we have social lives by virtue of not having one. Instead of taking out an hour in a day to enjoy a relaxed meal with a friend, many of us choose to grab take-out and eat while working. In Paris and Rome, people take the time to sit down and exchange intimacies with others instead of giving a rushed wave and “hello”. Even with this relaxed life style, they still manage to get all their work done. Clearly, it is possible to both relax and work efficiently. In the US, we get so caught up in our own business, that we manage to lose touch with friends and relatives. Although work is important, it shouldn’t take a toll on relationships with other people. Work will always be there, but friends and family may not.

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We’re always trying to get things done quickly so that we have free time for later, but we end up using this free time to do even more work. Kind of ironic isn’t it? All this time that we are apparently saving — when do we actually use it for enjoyment? Hardly ever. We get so lost in our cycle of waking up early, working for 10 to 12 hours a day, and then crashing at night that we don’t hit pause for even a moment to breathe. What’s the point of slaving away at our jobs when we don’t even reap the benefits? We try to be less busy in order to do more work — not to take some time off and enjoy life.

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Besides the side effects of losing touch with others and getting overworked, our health is also negatively affected by this busy lifestyle. Staying awake for long hours leads to great deals of stress and anxiety. There is also a second hand effect of our busyness. In his 2002 article “Bumping into Mr. Ravioli”, Adam Gopnik discusses how his three year old daughter Olivia has an imaginary friend, Charlie Ravioli, who is always too busy to play with her. Olivia had possessed a “paracosm”, a society thought up by a child. Living in New York shaped her mind and attitude so much that even her imaginary friend was too busy for her. Our busyness not only affects us, but also takes a toll on the younger generations.

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Work is a necessity. Busyness is not. We all need to learn how to drop everything for at least an hour a day to enjoy ourselves and spend time with others. If we fail to do so, we will harm ourselves and those around us.

Desire for Dystopia

The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver – these are just a few of the many dystopian movies that have been released in the past few years. Their story lines are quite different, but they revolve around one central element: an imaginary society in which oppression and injustice are prevalent. Sounds like a pretty disheartening theme, but  many people nowadays have developed a love for dystopia. Why? Why watch movies that feed off negativity?

Maybe it’s our obsession with imagining the future. We hear about the downturns of our society all the time – global warming, mass shootings, disease, and general unfairness. It makes us evaluate our current situation in such depth that we begin to contemplate the future. Twenty years from now, if nothing is done to reduce the effects of global warming, what would happen to the climate? Would some countries be completely underwater? And what if a deadly disease decimates most of the population? How would the people left behind survive?

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It’s these types of questions that solidify our interest in the phenomenon of consequences. After all, every action has a reaction, and every cause has an effect. One event tips off a chain reaction of events, like a row of Dominoes falling one after the other. It’s a concept that intrigues many and heavily dominates dystopian movies. In Divergent, the government seemingly maintains social stability by requiring everyone to join a faction that is tied to a specific personality. Yet, by such a method, individuality is quenched. This makes us, as an audience, think about what would happen if the government ever tried to tie us down to an oppressive system, one in which being your true self is considered a threat.

Even The Giver raises some important questions: does the government have the right to withhold information? Is censorship wrong, even if it’s implemented to protect people from painful truths? Through dystopian movies, people have the chance to explore such thoughts. Suddenly, the future isn’t something that can be reached only through a long expanse of time; dystopia makes it a vision that can be altered in multiple ways.

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After all, real life is a daily experience. The future, of course, is not. That’s why dystopian movies have creeped into our hearts and minds. They’re not only good entertainment, but also a visual of our most thought-provoking questions.

ANOTHER HACK ON SONY?

Recently, the public was made aware of yet another successful hacking attempt on the Sony Corporation. In this instance, numerous embarrassing internal memos, along with personal employee information, wage distribution methods and unreleased were leaked to the internet.  This humiliating scandal could possibly cause billions of dollars in losses to Sony Pictures since their movies are free to pirate on the internet, thereby decreasing their ticket revenues as anyone can simply download movies onto a computer and watch them.

The severity of the situation is explained by a quote from security researcher Adrian Sanabria, featured in a cited CNN article in which he states, “It’ll take Sony a year or more to go through it all and deal with the damage.”

With all of its valuable data on the internet, Sony is looking for suspects to blame this attack on, and right now, it’s looking at North Korea. Why would North Korea be targeting and hacking Sony Pictures? A possible answer to this question could be due to the upcoming Sony movie, The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. The premise of the movie consists of the two main characters, played by the aforementioned actors, traveling to North Korea on a secret mission to assassinate Kim Jong Un, the country’s autocratic leader. This caused an outrage in the North Korea, leading to a statement from its Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The KCNA, in a press release, condemned the film and stated, “Making and releasing a film that portrays an attack on our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated.” Comparing the current North Korean outrage to the previous reaction to the animated satire film Team America: World Police, it is quite feasible that the hack on Sony could have been perpetrated by North Korean sympathizers. Unfortunately, there is no concrete evidence to suggest involvement of any of the suspected North Korean parties.

Right now, I believe Sony should be more worried about the future of their company and how they can prepare themselves to deal with serious threats like these in the future.

This hack raises serious questions about cybersecurity and the vulnerability of many of our nation’s economic centers, and I for one hope that we can improve our ability to tackle these types of attacks and prevent the leakage of private information.

1. http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/04/technology/security/sony-hack/

Christmas Delivery – Easier Than You Think

Nine days until Christmas – and you know what that means; it’s time to send those festive gifts around the country. Santa’s reindeer can take a break this year; FedEx and the United States Postal Service have the delivery under control. Last year, because of the storm, deliveries were sent out a little late, but this year, they expect to send every package to the right house at the right time. The Postal Service said that “it will process more than 640 million cards, letters and packages” (1). FedEx stated that it will move “22.6 million shipments” (1). The problem with the gift shipping is how to get them to the house on time. After much research, experts from FedEx and UPS gave a few tips on how to make sure those presents reach the right house on Christmas Day.

First, make sure that you send it to the recipient. It makes the delivery much easier and it will reduce the time of the presents sitting in the postal office.

Next, don’t reuse boxes. FedEx packing expert Cordell Golden stated that it was the most common error made by the gift-senders.

Choose your carrier wisely, because some may have cut-off dates earlier than others. Some were this Monday, and others are coming up this Thursday. Depending on when you have your gifts wrapped up, you may have to choose a different carrier than your usual.

Something that you may not know is that there is a Free Shipping Day. Yes, that pesky fee for “shipping and handling” will wiped away for one day. On December 18th, from 12:01am to 11:59pm, last-minute gift shoppers will get another chance to buy their loved ones gifts without the extra fee. The founders of this “day”, Luke and Maisie Knowles, started this event in 2008 to “offer shoppers some peace of mind during the busy holiday shopping season” (2). Stores such as Levi’s, Lucky Brand, and North Face are participating in this event this year, also hoping to give their customers a “peace of mind” while shopping for the holidays. The Knowles planned to make the event as close to Christmas as possible to give a break to those that have a habit of shopping last minute. If you are one of those people that missed the cut-off date for getting the gift to the house in time for Christmas, do not worry. You can get the gift there in time without the extra money added to the delivery. With the postal carriers and this “Free Shipping Day” event, Christmas is on its way, filled with presents and laughter.

Bibliography:

White, Martha C. “No Reindeer Needed: How to Ship Your Gifts on Time.”TODAY. N.p., 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Ross, Philip. “Free Shipping Day 2014: List Of Stores Offering Free Delivery In Time For Christmas.” International Business Times. N.p., 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Media Distortion

The fast paced world in which we live requires us to be up-to-date with the most recent news and celebrity gossip. While it is important to stay informed of events occurring around us, it is also imperative that we are able to separate fact from fiction. The media is notorious for its distortion of the truth. It has the power to make or break a person’s reputation, as well as the ability to suppress selected information.

One of the most well known examples of media distortion is Taylor Swift’s current image. This talented and charismatic singer has long been the target of verbal abuse; she is constantly portrayed as a serial dater. Even if it may be true that she has had numerous boyfriends, it isn’t fair to her that the media broadcasts her personal life more than her professional life. The media is always publicizing her newest relationship and calling her names instead of discussing her most recent songs. In Blank Space, currently the number one song, Taylor sings about her negative image as the media portrays it. Her dating history is more well known than her major accomplishments — all thanks to the media.

Besides damaging an artist’s reputation, the media has also managed to ignore major issues. The extremely popular book and movie series, The Hunger Games, features a society in which there is an oppressive government and children kill each other to feed their communities. Although both the books and movies are wonderfully made, they present a disturbing and dehumanizing setting. Regardless of this, the media still manages to focus on an irrelevant aspect of the series: the romantic drama that the main character encounters. It’s all “Team Peeta or Team Gale?” and not “Don’t you think there is something severely wrong with children being forced into murdering each other for a game?” The Hunger Games may be presenting an underlying message about the government or mass homicide, but this potential message is being suppressed by the media.

The infamous media also makes an appearance in the classic allegory Animal Farm by George Orwell. The character Squealer is a pig who represents the media. He is portrayed as having the ability to “turn black into white”, which symbolizes the media’s effect on society. Unfortunately, when we see something on television, most of us don’t question it. This gives the media a great amount of control over our thoughts and opinions. In the novel, Squealer manipulates language to get the other animals to believe what he wants them to believe, and it is hardly ever the truth. In fact, his name is Squealer to reflect his dishonest nature. This accurately represents the role of the media in our society today.

By now, it should be clear that we can’t always rely on the gossip magazines or what appears on television. While there may be an iota of truth to what is being broadcasted, most of the information is spurious and modified to fit the wants of the media. We must learn to take news with a pinch of salt and not base our judgements solely on what we read or see. Once we start to think for ourselves, we can battle the effects of media distortion.

The Season of Giving

‘Tis the season to give, and for the most part, everyone does. Excepting those who volunteer for charity, I have seen friends, family, and complete strangers often dig deep into their wallets to find a spare dollar to donate. With the Christmas season around the corner, however, the onslaught of humanitarian organizations asking for donations will soon be upon us. And whether you firmly believe in that fat man coming down a chimney or the humble babe in a manger, giving continues to be part of the equation at Christmas. Unfortunately, like any secularized American ideal, we have turned giving into a form of selfishness instead of selflessness.

My giving during the holiday season is often unwarranted, unneeded, and extraneous. We pride ourselves in our “generosity” towards others, when in actuality most of us  give to our family and friends who often have bulging pockets and bulging stomachs, people that can pay us back in more exorbitant ways. We don’t give to truly give; we give to get. We give to get money, love, or affection. We give meaningless, costly items that pale in comparison to the bigger picture.  Often, the recipient didn’t really need your three-cheese grinder, or plantain peeler. While they murmur, “Oh, how thoughtful,” your $19.99 purchase of a butterfly displayed in a picture frame will be collecting dust in a few weeks. Our gifts are unnecessary, unneeded, and are often for our own benefit. We give for the sake of social acceptance and propriety, two dull forces that have been essential to maintaining social status but unnecessary in genuinely making a change.

Now, before you might wave your hand up in the air, wait a moment. I give to charity. And you probably do too. But if you’re anything like me, you give to charity when you feel like it, when your pockets have enough money that you can spare the change. When the cashier asks if I’d like to donate a dollar to feed hungry children, I often politely decline while carefully choosing a pack of gum. One dollar could have gone a long way to saving a child’s life, but my bad breath seemed more important at the moment. Since those hungry children are not directly in front of me, I feel a lack of empathy and thus don’t feel a need to donate, at least, not as much as I should. My needs, my friends, my family, seem worth giving to because they are present before me day in and day out.  We all believe we give “enough” to charity. But when is “enough” really enough when the money I spent on that tabloid could have prevented two deaths from starvation?

Before you burn me at the stake for my harsh words, I must concede that many of my readers are completely sacrificial in their giving. They work hard, some taking two or three jobs even, to balance the amount of money they spend to tell their cherished ones that they love them. I get it. I am not villainizing you, rather, I am admitting the flaws I see in my own motives when I give, and I wonder if they may be the same for you. In any case, I fully believe that we don’t give enough to those who truly need it.

As Americans, we have turned Christmas into a selfish holiday. We give to people who can pay us back. When we give publicly to those who can’t pay back the money that we can spare, many of us do it so that others will notice us and pat us on the back. The reality of the harsh lives that others around the world have today is far from our hearts. Much of us, including myself, simply forget the poor. We are so warmed with Christmas cheer and hot chocolate that we forget that the money that we spent purchasing our trivial items could go to a greater cause. We forget that there are those who don’t have clean water to drink, who are enslaved in the sex trade, who are orphans, or who are homeless. We forget that we can make a difference because we are too caught up in ourselves and our warm feelings.

This year, let’s give not because we must. Let’s give freely and graciously to help those who aren’t as blessed as we are. There are a multitude of organizations which you can donate to, and often, if you donate a certain amount of money, you can receive a handmade gifts made by the people you donated to. If you still need to put gifts under that tree, that isn’t a problem. Research organizations that donate part of their profits to charities. Some well-known organizations, such as TOMS, donate part of their profits to the funds for the mentally ill or poor. Some non-profit organizations allow you to donate money in the name of a loved one, buying necessities such as seeds and farm animals for poor, underprivileged peoples in other countries. You can receive a certificate detailing your donation in the name of that loved one, and as a Christmas present, you can give this certificate to him, telling him of his contribution to aiding someone else.

The season of giving is upon us. Whatever you choose to give or however much, simply remember that motives are the most important part of this equation. In legend, Old Saint Nick gave away his inheritance to a poor man to pay for his daughters’ dowries so that they could have their happy ending. In religion, Jesus gave away his freedoms to be confined by the limits of time and humanity to save mankind. Whether you believe these tales to be folklore or fact doesn’t matter in the aspect of giving; perhaps it is time for all of us to simply give out of the goodness of our hearts, just as they did, to the people who needed it the most.Giving