Make the Problem Better, Not Worse: How to Protest Through Words, Not Violence

     “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

William Faulkner

     We are humans, and like all other animals, we have to live to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  Every once in awhile, other people will pose threats against us through their words or actions, and we fight back by leveling down to that of an animal through the use of violence.  What we sometimes take for granted is that we are a more sophisticated animal species, in that we have the ability to speak, which other animals do not possess.  In fact, Douglas Kenrick is author of The rational animal: How evolution made us smarter than we think, in which he discusses how we have the tendency to forget about the power of words and we use violence instead, making the initial problem worse, not better.

    During her training as a political scientist, Erica Chenoweth was taught to assume that the most effective tool for achieving political goals is violence.  She was taught wrong.  Chenoweth and her co-worker Maria Stephan completed a study in which they gathered data on 323 violent and nonviolent political campaigns since 1900.  Apparently, when Chenoweth started out, she was fairly certain that the violent political campaigns would be more likely to accomplish their goals.  But she was wrong.  The shocking results of the study show that nonviolent campaigns have a 53% success rate and only about a 20% rate of complete failure.  Violent campaigns show the opposite outcome, which is that they were only successful 23% of the time, and complete failures about 60% of the time.  Violent campaigns succeeded partially in about 10% of cases, again comparing unfavorably to nonviolent campaigns, which resulted in partial successes over 20% of the time.  Fortunately, according to Chenoweth, when a government is overthrown nonviolently, the new government is more likely to be democratic, and less likely to itself be overthrown, as compared to those that won using guns and bombs.  Nonviolent campaigns receive more participants, especially women and older people, as well as people who do not want to carry the burden of walking around with guns but will communicate government cruelties and take part in boycotts and protests that do not involve violence.

     Mental health is another factor that contributes to violence.  According to a 2011 article called Why Do People Resort To Violence?, by Kathryn Seifert Ph.D., Ted Bundy, a killer permanently etched into American history, was tried and convicted of multiple murders and executed in 1989. He confessed to killing 30 women although he is suspected of killing up to 100.  Bundy had psychological issues and was born into a family where his mother was so young that she and her family convinced him that she was his sister.  Ted’s grandfather was mentally erratic and abusive, and so Ted learned some of his grandfather’s habits.  Ted was exposed to a lot of negativity throughout his life and felt revengeful towards many people, including his girlfriend, to whom he proposed marriage but then dumped her because he was upset with her for breaking up with him in college.  In fact, Ted was so upset that he dropped out of college.  He was able to fool women with his handsome looks for a long time, but eventually, he could no longer control the dark fire within him, and Ted started a murder spree that would last four years, spanning from Washington State to Utah to Florida.  Ted had many emotions spewing inside of him, just waiting to be expressed, but he let them out in the wrong way, and he let his emotions defeat him when he was killed as a result of his crimes.

     As much as it seems as if knives and guns will solve people’s problems and help fighters to gain power, violent fights wind up defeating their assumed purpose.  People on the receiving end of the gunshot will listen, but they will listen to the wrong sound, and as a result, they will fight back, causing the original problem to turn into a bigger conflict.  We have words.  We can speak against what is offending us.  If we just use the gift that we were given, we can come together as a species and make a real change.  Life is too short to dwell on the little problems and even shorter to create bigger ones, and that is what we will do if we engage in violence.  Words are more powerful than a thousand weapons combined, and if we use them, then we can avoid a lot of trouble.

     Of course, even though non-violence is the better way to go for most people, some other people support violence, and we need to respect that too.  According to an article called “Antifa Protestor Yvette Felarca Says Violence Against the Far-Right Is ‘Not A Crime,’” by Ian Miles Cheong, Yvette Felarca, the Berkeley area school teacher and militant left-wing protester responsible for organizing the riot at the University of California, Berkeley in February 2017, claims that violence against the far-right is “not a crime.”  She and her compatriots took part in violent protests against the far-right Traditional Worker’s Party, and according to the article, in July 2017, the police charged Yvette Felarca of “assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury, participating in a riot, and inciting a riot.”  Felarca, however, argues that she and her compatriots did not commit a crime, but rather they acted out of self-defense.  The people whom she fought against were Neo-Nazis and were planning on killing them.  Felarca explains that she and her colleagues had no choice but to physically defend themselves and it was therefore not a crime.  The activist made similar statements during her appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” where she described conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos as a “fascist” and urged others across the United States to organize mass violence against people like Yiannopoulos to shut them down.  Although violence is not helpful in most situations and it does not benefit anyone, it can serve as self-defense, and so people who are against violence have to respect the fact that their beliefs differ from other people’s and understand that they use violence as a form of self-defense against people who make an effort to hurt them.

     It has been said that some people have actually supported or encouraged the use of violence.  It is not that they have supported it, because violence is unjust and does not help anyone or anything.  What is true, however, is that people will not make any efforts to stop the violence from happening and reporting the abuser for fear that it might get worse.  The organization “LoveisRespect” presented an article that discusses people in abusive relationships and why they stay.  The article is broken up into four main reasons, which are “conflicting emotions,” “pressure,” “distrust of adults or authority,” and “reliance on the abusive partner.”  People usually stay in an abusive relationship for fear that if they leave, their partners will abuse them even more.  This is not good; someone needs to speak up soon but for now, no one is speaking up, and so that is why abuse still goes on.

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The Psychology of Racism

“America is not a stranger to the issue of racism. With its history of African American slavery and segregation, America has come a long way since the more explicitly racist policies of our past, but racist ideals and biases are still going strong today. These ideals and biases help create a more subtle, systemic racism, which is ultimately what lead to the outcome of the Philando Castile shooting and acquittal. While there’s certainly a historical background that precedes the racism we see today, there is also a psychological aspect that attempts to explain why racist ideas are integrated into our thoughts, our actions, and our world. This essay is not meant at all to justify the hatred, violence, and trauma that racism creates, but rather, understand the psychology of racism so that we can actively combat the racism that hides in the way we think and act. Only by viewing the subconscious reasoning behind racism can we attempt to break it down by being active in conversations surrounding our internal biases.”

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The New Anti-Feminist Movement

So, there’s a new problem making its way around, similar to that  Mumps outbreak at Harvard. This new problem is the newest anti-feminist movement being lead by women. If you thought white feminism was bad, hold on to your seats, kids, ’cause this is going to be a wild ride.

Recently, girls everywhere have decided that they don’t even, like, need feminism. That’s, like, cool and all, except these girls are pretty much all white, cis, and hetero. There’s no problem with that, generally speaking, but when you say you don’t need the feminist movement and can identify with all three categories, you kind of, well, ERASE ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO STILL NEED THIS MOVEMENT.

When white, cis, hetero women have the audacity to say “we’re doing just fine” it’s because they forgot that women of color and LGBTQ women exist. It’s because they see their pay gap closing and forget that Latina and black women make even less than 78 cents an hour. It’s because they see themselves represented more often than not on television and don’t have to worry about being one of the queer women who die on tv every 10 days. It’s because, even while facing harassment, they will still face nothing compared to what trans women face.

There’s also the huge issue here of American/Western privilege. Maybe it is easy for you, pretty, blonde, white girl. Maybe your country doesn’t choose to oppress you. Maybe you’re lucky to be born somewhere that allows you to drive your car and doesn’t require you to have a chaperone, and where it’s a lot less likely your husband will one day throw acid on you (or even your child). Maybe you got lucky and don’t need feminism because your family won’t disown you for having sex before marriage. Maybe you’ll never have to have sex to support your family. Maybe you’ll never be raped by a group of men so badly that you die from it, and still be the one blamed.

But maybe, just maybe, your privilege so clouds your views that you can only see women who look, think, talk, and act like you do. Maybe the woman you see in the mirror doesn’t have bruises because her boyfriend is one of the good ones. Maybe when you were a little girl no one had already sold you off to a man three times your age. Maybe when you got your first job you made the same amount as the guys. Maybe you see Hillary Clinton and think, “That could be me one day,” when so many young girls of color can’t think the same. Maybe you can walk down the street and not try to shrink down for fear of someone trying to clock you as transgender.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to not need feminism, but that doesn’t mean you should have any right to take it from the girls all over this world that do need it. How very dare you, anti-feminist women.

Why Queer Women in Media Always Die

If you have been on Twitter or Tumblr recently, you may have seen some things tagged with “Lexa Deserved Better” or “Boycott The 100.” You may have seen people talking about tropes and the killing of queer female characters. You may have thought to yourself, “Okay, so what? Writers kill people off all the time. What’s so special about this time?” That’s a great question, but it stems from a misunderstanding of what representation needs to look like to actually achieve equality. So many queer characters have been killed off of TV shows that there is actually a trope called “Bury your gays” because of it.

Continue reading “Why Queer Women in Media Always Die”

Why All Millennials Should Watch BoJack Horseman

I recently started watching Netflix’s original cartoon entitled BoJack Horseman. My brother recommended the show, and I thought maybe it was a Family Guy-esque show with anthropomorphic animals as characters. It turns out I was dead wrong, and, after three days of binge-watching the show, I realized exactly how much I needed it in my life.

If you’re anything like me (and many people in our generation) you’ve got anxiety about where you’re going next in life and if you’ve accomplished some of the things you had hoped to by this point; you’re a little bit depressed and a lot cynical; you’ve started to understand that sometimes there are people with no good in them; you also started to understand that there are people who are broken and make self-destructive choices in an attempt to numb their pain; you’ve wondered if, after all of your mistakes, it’s too late to be better. BoJack Horseman attacks all of the feelings we have about life in a way that begs the question, “Exactly how much of this show is comedy?” The answer to that question is this: The entire show is comedy, and sometimes we, the viewers, are the joke.

BoJack Horseman provides the type of comedy that makes us laugh at ourselves and our entire world. It forces us to consider who we are while giving us room to laugh at antics of the characters that seem to make so many of the same mistakes the rest of us do. BoJack Horseman isn’t the type of funny that makes you call up your friends and repeat punchlines. BoJack Horseman is the type of funny that makes the weight of the world just a little bit lighter by exposing the dark realities many of us experience.

BoJack, voiced by Will Arnett, gives us the character we’ve all been waiting for. He’s a washed-up, alcoholic, drug addicted, cynical celebrity trying to find his place in the world. He questions many times what kind of person he is and if he will ever redeem himself. His parents hated each other and neglected him while he was growing up. In an attempt to find himself and success again, he hires a ghost-writer, Diane, to help him complete his memoirs.

Diane, a human, is painted as an awkward, Schopenhauerian pessimist with her own family issues, and she constantly mentions how much she dislikes parties because she never knows what to do with her hands; But we also see her intelligence, her yearning to find a success that might make her family proud of her, and her want to make an impact on the world. Diane is the girlfriend of Mr. Peanut Butter, another anthropomorphic character. Mr. Peanut Butter is a dog who became a celebrity shorty after BoJack, and it is mentioned many times that Mr. Peanut Butter consistently rips-off BoJack’s ideas. BoJack thinks Mr. Peanut Butter is disillusioned and is often annoyed by his obliviousness and naivety. We also get to see characters like Todd, a human who lives rent-free with BoJack because he was kicked out of his home by his parents for his “lifestyle” which included binge-playing video games and getting high, and Princess Caroline, a cat that desperately wants to find love as she ages and so she compulsively takes care of those around her, usually getting hurt in the process, and ending in her channeling all of her energy into her career as BoJack’s agent.

Through these characters, we get to ask some important questions and hear some insightful, sometimes honest-to-a-fault answers. My personal favorite so far has been the question, “How do you not be sad??” A young BoJack sent this question to his hero and famed racehorse, Secretariat. BoJack begins by saying that even though he is a good kid who likes school, he gets sad sometimes. The question personally hit home because I have struggled with depression for a really long time, and I think that once you start getting older, you understand that certain types of sadness never really go away, and BoJack’s character certainly stays true to that. Secretariat’s response is even more peculiar in its raw honesty. He replies with, “BoJack, when you get sad, you run straight ahead and you keep running forward, no matter what. There are people in your life who are gonna try to hold you back, slow you down, but you don’t let them. Don’t you stop running and don’t you ever look behind you. There’s nothing for you behind you. All that exists is what’s ahead.”

Early on in the first season we also have a great moment where BoJack has a bit of a monologue about America’s views and treatment of its military, the American war mentality, and mainstream media. He argues over muffins with Neal McBeal, who is a Seal (both animal and Navy) said to have just returned from war. The media responds to BoJack’s treatment of McBeal in outrage, and the country erupts in hatred for BoJack whom everyone now believes hates veterans and doesn’t think they are heroes. There is also a lot of subtle commentary here about the mainstream media latching onto stories and blowing things out of proportion and encouraging a mob mentality, but I digress. BoJack’s friends and agent finally convince him to go on air, on Mr. Peanut Butter’s reality TV show, and apologize to the seal so that he can fix some of his extremely tarnished reputation. There is a whole plan here, and it all pretty much goes wrong, but the most important part is BoJack saying the following, “You’re a hero. The troops are all heroes, every single one…And I don’t believe saying that cheapens the word and actually disrespects those we mean to honor by turning real people into political pawns…Also, I am not deeply ambivalent about a seemingly mandated celebration of our military by a nation that claims to value peace telling our children that violence is never the answer while refusing to hold our own government to the same standard…Furthermore, I do not find it unbelievably appropriate that this conversation is taking place on reality television, a genre which thrives on chopping the complexities of our era into easily digestible chunks of empty catchphrases.” People eventually tune out towards the end, which I took as a more subtle statement about the general populous being pretty much ignorant of most of the issues pointed out in BoJack’s monologue. No one cared about the troops or veterans in the show until the media told them to care, and once the media stopped caring, everyone was once again victim to their own ignorance.

Lastly, there is the big question we all sometimes ask ourselves: “Do you think I am a good person, deep down?” BoJack asks Diane this question as they both sit on a rooftop. BoJack, at this very moment, is vulnerable but somewhat hopeful about his future despite finally being told how people see him after all of his mistakes and recklessness. Diane is BoJack’s foil in many ways, and we can see that in her reply, “I don’t think I believe in deep-down. I think all you are is just the things that you do.” Her response is the exact opposite of what BoJack wants to both hear and believe at this very moment, and yet Diane tells him that essentially his mistakes have made him who he is. In Diane’s mind, is no deep-down because that would mean that when we hurt people, we can look past it and say that deep-down that mistake isn’t who we are, and this is something BoJack has tried to tell himself for years.

So, if you’ve gotten this far in this essay, you’re probably wondering how exactly it relates to social justice and being a millennial. In relation to social justice, I will simply give you two words: social commentary. The show is ripe with it, and somehow only ever gets better as time goes on. Most of the social commentary in season one is done monologue style with one character going off on a tangent and the other characters brushing it off and paying little or no attention to it. Every time a character is saying something worthwhile on screen, another character is acting as the “common person” by being completely ignorant and finding amusement in reality television, or sometimes completely zoning out. As for its relevance to being a millennial, the show puts on screen many of our anxieties about life. Many of the characters share our fears about growing older and finding success, our regrets about hurting those we care about (and ourselves), our thoughts on war, our hatred of blind optimism and ignorance, and, of course, our strangely unwavering hope that we can somehow be better than we are right now and leave this world better than we found it.

If you aren’t yet sold on the show being for you and need one last push in the right direction, I’ll leave you with one of the most satisfyingly honest motivational quotes you may ever hear: “Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part, but it does get easier.”

So You Want to Be More Cultured…

I spent my most recent college semester in Rome, Italy. It was an experience, to say the least. One thing I can tell you for sure is that I learned a lot about my own family’s culture, and, in turn, I became a lot more aware of the other cultures around me back at home in NYC.

Growing up in The Melting Pot almost makes it sound easy to just know about other cultures and people because you’re surrounded. I’m here to tell you the truth: it isn’t easy. You have to make the effort to actually go learn about other cultures. You can eat all the sushi you want and never truly appreciate the Japanese culture. You can grow up in an Italian family, speak the language, and still never understand anything about Italy. That was my exact predicament these past four months. I thought I knew what I was walking into. I had seen all the foods before. I could communicate somewhat with the locals. I had always prided myself on being something other than American. I loved having some different culture to tell people about, but, up until recently, I actually didn’t even know too much about Italian culture outside of the food. It made me realize that I also knew nothing about most of the people that I grew up living right next door to.  If you find yourself in that same situation, well, here are my three main tips to help get you through.

  1. Talk to people. Talk to everyone. You might be thinking that you do this on the daily, but I’m not just talking about simple conversations. I’m talking about the type of communication that opens your mind. Talk to other students about their heritages, especially exchange or international students. They have a lot of stories to offer you, I promise. Let them tell you about their life back at their home country; they can offer real insight to life under certain governments, with different education systems/religions/values. There are too many things we take for granted here in the United States, and a great way to connect with people and also become further aware of your privilege is through simple communication.
  2. Did you know that tomatoes weren’t always a part of the Italian tradition? As a matter of fact, people used to think that their bold, red color signified poison, and the leaden plates that peasants used to eat them off of would turn people ill, so they blamed the fruit. That brings us to the next tip. Learn about and eat/cook a traditional meal. If you manage to make friends with some students from different backgrounds, ask them about traditional recipes. If you’re really good friends, hang out after school one day or in one of your campus kitchens and put a meal together. Not only is it a great experience cooking with friends in general, but seeing new ingredients or old ingredients being prepared in wholly new ways will give you a new understanding of how people eat around the world. Some ingredients even have stories behind them and different meanings in other cultures, so take advantage of these opportunities.
  3. Here’s a cool video and an article about the right ways to eat sushi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auLmekEsaak and http://blog.gaijinpot.com/eating-sushi-the-proper-way/ .That brings us to tip #3: Use the internet if you have questions. How do we properly eat sushi? What are the different types of headdresses for Muslim women? Why are there different names for similar alcohols in different countries? What do the different gestures in Indian dancing mean? These are all great questions you might have, and you can start by answering them with a simple google search.

 

If you find yourself needing immediate help learning about another culture, have no fear. Here are two websites that can help you out:

http://www.gaylecotton.com/blog/2013/03/global-etiquette-cultural-tips-to-keep-in-mind-for-any-culture/

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/kwintessential-learn-etiquette-manners/

 

While I love being back home in America, I sometimes feel isolated from the cultures around me, even when so many people in my neighborhood are immigrants. It’s easy to forgot how privileged some of us are to have been born here and to have United States passports and many different freedoms. We have to remember that people may feel like outsiders in our strange, ethnocentric American world, and one way to make them feel welcome is to simply try to understand them.

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