CultureOpinionSkills

We at Carpe Juvenis have discussed how writing for pleasure can help you think. It can help you discern the intention behind your actions and the actions of others. It can lead you to invent new options and strategies for engaging in life. It can shape your self-perception and identity. In short, writing is cathartic and important.

Starting a blog can be a great way to get your own writing started. A blog is a regularly updated personal website that is typically written in a casual and informal style. Blogging is an excellent way to access the benefits of writing while transforming the world around you.

First, there is a moral case to be made for self-help through blogging. Living things – regardless of manifestation or ability – deserve an opportunity to achieve their potential. Humans are no different. By writing, we disentangle complex webs of thought, and thereby position ourselves in a way that better accommodates and utilizes our personal potential.

Contrary to what you might have thought, documenting and defining the moments in your own life isn’t necessarily pandering or egotistical. Writing is a tool our species invented for a reason: to communicate or document something of importance. And while musings and rantings often strike us as circular or pointless, they have their place too – they draw attention to potentially important topics, as well as invite discussion and allow for synergistic problem-solving.

Blogs make it easy to give opinions a public forum. In our globalized, mechanized, politicized world, having your voice heard is vital. Marginalized peoples everywhere are being swept under the rug by the ultra-powerful who line their pockets with cash and conflict diamonds. Blogs allow any and all of us to be advocates for social change, understanding, and justice in equality. Excellent examples include Dr. Marion Nestle’s Food Politics, personal favorite, Loving Language, and travel journal, Taking Route.

Blogging can teach us how to deal with adversity, acknowledge privilege, appreciate overlooked aspects of life, myth-bust, and dismantle stereotypes. In the hands of underrepresented groups, blogs can be an advocacy tool for greater rights and equality – speakers of native and endangered languages can share successes and struggles in passing down their heritage language to their children, women in the UK and globally can discuss how woman of color are portrayed in the media. Ultimately, blogs give bloggers space to express their experiences and insight in ways that positively contribute to the human understanding of the challenges and rewards of life.

The advantages to using blogs as a medium are obvious: they’re accessible and customizable. Free and easy blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger are good tools to get started. Once you’ve tested it out, you might decide to move on to a purchased web domain. Blogging resources abound – check out these tips and tutorials on setting up and growing a blog, maintain a blog, and do it well.

There’s no pretension with a blog (there shouldn’t be, at least) because they’re not formal publications funded by shareholders with a stake in the status quo. Blogs cut through the disingenuousness of conventional media. Real people representing real grassroots interests are the authors of blogs. By leveraging their networks and imbuing their work with genuine passion and honesty, the authors of blogs can truly change the world.

Travel

Whilst strolling along the warm streets of Philadelphia with a dear friend last summer, a curious conversation developed. He mentioned that in his opinion, cities are more alike than different because they each have downtowns, trendy neighborhoods, grocery stores, and so on. While certainly a valid point, I couldn’t help but to humbly disagree.

Cities, to me, are like people; organic and distinct. Each one has its own unique vibration that affects its dwellers and visitors differently. Perhaps I am a complete travel romantic, but every time I explore a new city I feel a different vibe and perspective.

For example, the powerful city I currently call “home” – Washington, D.C. – is unlike any other I have experienced. Coming from Philadelphia suburbia, the District has been an invigorating breath of fresh air. It seems as though everyone is the city is an innovator, activist, entrepreneur, or artist, and it’s impossible not to be motivated by my impressive peers. I like to call D.C. the “suburban city,” in that it has both the perks of city living (public transportation and never-ending attractions) but also the luxury of green space. Washington D.C. is that friend who is forever humble and calm, while behind closed doors is a remarkable go-getter.

Moving across the globe for a bit, Cape Town is another city that is unmatched in my eyes. With a rich yet tumultuous history on its side, the city overflows with South African pride and passion. Faces of so many colors, and mouths of so many languages, mix to create a city that revels in its diversity. Along with the glamour of the beautiful city, there is also serious grit. Perhaps it was the unfortunate contrast between the sleek buildings of Cape Town’s downtown and the meager homes just on the outskirts; or maybe, the people’s awareness that there is room for growth in social issues. Whatever it was made Cape Town feel unapologetically candid.

Then, there is Auckland. The city, I’ve deemed, that must be one of the happiest places on earth. Not only does New Zealand’s largest metropolis look immaculate, but it also has the ability to make the grumpiest people optimistic. The people are smiling, sun seems to always be shining, and grass is so curiously green. The city brings out an altruistic nature — making you care about other people, the environment, the animals, and the quality of life. It inadvertently motivates its citizens to upkeep the city in the name of sustainability and contentment. In my opinion, Auckland really gives Disney World a run for its money in the happiness competition.

So to me, cities are just as varied as people and their attitudes. The world is a big place, but little did I know about the equally big personalities that exist within it until I started to explore. With that said… get out there, tell me what you feel when you visit a new city (@aysiawoods), and happy travels!

Image: Aysia Woods

Skills

Escaping negativity is hard.

I’ll be perfectly honest; when I first came up with the concept for this article (and it was probably about a month ago) I had big aspirations for how amazing and relatable it would be. People would laugh and cry reading it, it would be an article for the ages, lauded by all.

Needless to say, this is not that article. That article, which had potential (although probably not as much as I dreamed it would) was killed by my complete and utter lack of motivation, as well as persistent nagging from myself that whatever I did, the article wouldn’t be up to par anyway. The sad thing is, I really wanted to write a good article that people would appreciate. I want to live up to everybody’s expectations, and even go beyond that. I want my work to be acknowledged and appreciated. I’m only human, after all. Being human, however, entails other less positive things.

The negativity that keeps me from writing the inspired article isn’t unique to me. Most people go through phases where nothing seems to be good enough, no matter how much you give. The question then becomes, why bother trying? Once you’ve reached that particular question, with all the life-altering connotations it brings with, that’s when you really need to think about what you want and what makes you happy. In my experience, that’s what makes that negative cloud go away; by finding a little moment of happiness and stretching it, taking your safe zone and pushing its boundaries until you find purpose in even the things you don’t want to do.

This is the point in the year where a slump kicks in (at least for me). The jitters of the beginning of school have faded, and the mundanity of daily life has yet to be replaced by heart-stopping final jitters. Halloween has passed in all its sugar-spiked glory, and it’s really too early to be gearing up for Christmas. The important idea that will kick that negative voice to the curb for November is this – November is a time for thanks and family.

Wherever and whoever you are, there’s someone out there that cares, and that’s an amazing thing, a simple fact that can alleviate any foul mood. Dark clouds do come, and there’s really no way around it than to face it every day with a steely determination, a smirk worthy of Han Solo, and preferably a loved one. With the power of that trifecta, the negative voice in your head won’t dare to speak up.

How do you deal with your negative voice?

Image: Volkan Olmez

CultureSkills

Every second, minute, and hour of every day, something is happening in the world. While we might not be there to experience these moments in time firsthand, there are news reporters, journalists, and eye witnesses ready to give us a rundown of what is going on. Some news stations are biased and may or may not report the entire truth, others probably don’t care too much about the truth. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to you to decide who you want to believe and who you don’t want to believe. Not everyone speaking into a camera is going to tell you the truth and not everyone is going to tell you a lie. This is why you have to use your own discretion when consuming media reported news.

No one can tell you which news station or online magazine is the most credible. This is only because credibility is such a broad term, and the same news outlet that is deemed credible to one person may be deemed untrustworthy by another. For example, there are people who like CNN, but there are others who don’t. The same can be said for any other news channel that people watch. Having people who dislike CNN or any other news channel doesn’t devalue that channel in any way. It just means that people have different criterion for credibility. However, even if you do have a good sense of which news sources are credible to you, the important thing to remember is not to be biased. Don’t take what you hear or see at face value just because your favorite reporter or writer said something happened. They might not have all the facts or even the right facts.

Do your own research; try to confirm what is being said. You have a right to know what’s going on in the word around you. So what if you can’t be aware of everything that goes on? That doesn’t mean you can’t be well-informed about the things you are aware of. Question everything you read, see, and hear. Don’t just go along with what is being said because if you do, you are doing a disservice to yourself. Young people have the power to make a difference, but we can’t do that if we are in a state of obliviousness and if we are constantly unaware of what is going on around us.

The less we pay attention, the more disconnected we become from the rest of the world. Quite a few of my peers say that they don’t care about what happens in other countries or even other cities and states because it doesn’t directly affect them. If you are a person who shares those same sentiments, keep in mind that even if something doesn’t directly affect you, it will still indirectly affect you. You might not realize that now but we don’t often see the things that affect us until it hits close to home.

Question everything. See what’s going on yourself instead of only relying on news reporters to provide you with information. You are not just a resident of a city, state, or town. You are not just a citizen of your country, either. You are a citizen of the world, and the more you know, the more connected you will be. People think that borders and large bodies of water separate us from each other, but really it’s the things we don’t know that drives us apart.

Image: Barzan Qtr

Education

High school students are beginning to fill out their college applications, and part of that process includes deciding what major to pick. While you can always change your major once you get to school, oftentimes colleges encourage you to choose one so they can get an idea of your interests.

For those thinking about majoring in photography, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Costs add up.

It is impossible to imagine how much things cost. Film, darkroom paper, photo paper, book printing, photo books, mounting, business cards…the list goes on. As the four college years go by, it adds up. Some schools have amazing facilities (Parsons) but others do not. For those that don’t, it would be frustrating for you to have to buy all your own gear and pay for studio and scanning and developing chemistry.

2. Think outside the box.

Photography is no longer the black and white documentary 35mm it once was. From fashion to fine art, photo students are now expected to grasp, come up with, and execute concepts. Why did you take that picture? Why is it next to that other picture? Is it a series, a diptych, a stand alone? Digital, prints, or book form? Why? Be prepared to think critically.

3. Critiques will happen.

“Crits” are days when your work is hung up and people talk about it. Sometimes you can defend your work, sometimes you can’t. People will disagree or dislike your work. They will tell you what they honestly think. You can’t do anything about it. The best thing to do is to learn to take everything with a grain of salt, and to give good crits. That is the most productive thing to do. Explain what is working and what isn’t and why.

Being a photography major has its good and bad points. But as long as you love it, then it will all be worth it!

Image: Mia Domenico

CultureEducation

When it comes to voicing opinions these days, our generation has become paramount in articulating difficult issues facing the world. However, due to corrupt and old-fashioned politics, there has been an increase in voter apathy and decline in voter turnout. With fallacious advertisements and discouraging structures like the Electoral College, young people today do not see the importance of voting anymore – oftentimes, they underestimate the power of their votes.

With the midterm elections this week, I hope to inspire a few more people to go out and make their opinions matter. For example, say you prefer ideology that is kinder to those of lower classes but you decide not to vote. Well, for the past few decades, statistics show that those of more affluent households have dominated the voting circuit, and though some of them may vote alongside your ideals, it is most likely that a large majority will not. Go out and stand up for your principles; no one else will.

For those of you who are like my roommate in the fact that you look at a newspaper and immediately shut down: do not be afraid to learn about the tough issues. My roommate justifies her desire to not vote through the fact that politics panics her; she does not understand nor does she wish to comprehend the bureaucratic system our country exhibits. And although I respect her opinion on this matter, this troubles me because people like this live in this country too, and it is vital to care about your country’s politics. What if you do not vote purely because you did not care to look at the platforms, and an abominable law is passed that affects your life negatively? Take the time to educate yourself on the candidates’ platforms and history as politicians so that you can make the best choice for yourself. Just because you do not vote does not mean that the political decisions made post-election do not affect you.

It is astounding how younger generations today are making films, writing songs, and creating art that explore tons of the social and economic concerns dealt with today, and still feel completely apathetic toward voting. For those of you on the fence about voting this week, your voice should not be reserved only to the creative ventures you have. Each candidate specializes in issues that cater to different demographics, so please look into them and discover what you need out of the American political system. Your opinions and beliefs are preeminent in a time struggling to situate itself with rising issues, therefore, take advantage of the chance you are given to express your beliefs.

To get started, check out these useful resources: 

1. Vote Smart: Just the Facts

2. On the Issues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue

Image: Theresa Thompson

Culture

It is hard to believe that censorship is still a present norm in our world today. Living in a nation where the rare occurrence of revealed censorship can lead to intense uproar has sheltered most of us, and has also created a bubble in which whenever we hear of censorship in other nations it sounds foreign and almost unbelievable. For many other countries, censorship of news, social media, or even artwork in order to avoid political discourse among citizens is an everyday battle for freedom of expression.

This week, in a region of Essex, England known as Clacton-on-Sea, a council ordered the removal of graffiti art that opposed the conservative town’s view on immigration reform. Tying in the fact that this town is coming up on election time, the council wanted to avoid political discourse on their conservative values that could have been stirred up by this influential artwork. However, the council had no idea at the time that this graffiti art was done by the anonymous yet world-renowned artist called Banksy. Banksy’s painting showed five grey pigeons – most likely representing the members of the town – holding up picket signs that attempted to thwart a colorful, migratory swallow – an immigrant – from entering their domain. This is a clear jab at the towns desire to restrain immigration to Clacton-on-Sea.

The council attempted to avoid such political agendas from arousing the town, but by censoring what can be done and seen in the town via artwork, they inadvertently drew more attention to the situation. Not exactly going so far as to control their citizens every move, the council took on a very Big Brother-esque position by deciding what people in this area can and cannot see. If you are that afraid of your citizens being influenced enough to switch political affiliations, then try and keep their eye on your issues and viewpoints. Censorship such as this should never be utilized to keep political power; it contradicts democratic laws and ethics in general.

Another example of recent censorship comes with the current riots in Hong Kong. The riots stem from pro-democracy students and adults who are angry with Chinese legislation. Elections used to be controlled by a committee of 1,200 with many Beijing loyalists influencing the group’s decision. But recently ratified policy will now allow the city of 5 million the opportunity to vote for their own officials, so long as the vote is for one of the Beijing handpicked candidates. This new policy renders voting pointless and is why so many riots are occurring in the city. Moreover, the ruckus caused by the rioters has caused congestion in heavily populated regions of Hong Kong, sparking violence between pro-democracy protesters and those who want to get on with their careers and lives. In order to avoid uproar in mainland Chinese towns and cities, the government has censored social media. For example, certain hashtags on Twitter were banned and Instagram was shut down completely to avert any information that the government could not censor or control getting to mainlanders.

Many try to justify censorship as a way of preventing hysteria among citizens; a caveat of political responsibilities that is necessary for order. However, usually censorship just causes more chaos as citizens of that nation and outsiders fight to be able to understand what is happening in the news and in the world around them. Censorship is not protection. If anything, it hinders our awareness of what goes on in the world.

Image: Flickr

Culture

Have you ever scrolled through the comment section of a Youtube video, or looked at a blog post only to find negative remarks? The Internet has become a medium for many forms of communication. Whether people are sharing art or the news, venting exasperation through the comment section or posts has become a cultural norm. Unleashing frustration via these outlets has gone so far as to even have nicknames like “trolling,” and these negative notes are usually the ones most viewers gravitate towards. All of the attention being drawn to these comments only feeds to the negativity fostering in those discussion boxes and, although these comments breed some kind of conversation, this shows a lack of responsibility on the part of people today because some are not consciously reviewing their words in order to remain respectful of others online

Now, some might say that no one should ever filter their words in order to appease the public, but with such a strong power of instant communication over the Internet, we have to consider holding ourselves accountable for every move – the Internet is forever. An example I recently saw of this kind of behavior was on Facebook. A friend of mine from high school had posted an article and a comment about why he disagreed with it. After reading the following posts, I was intrigued to discover what caused this commotion. The article was essentially discussing the oddity that is the social norm where a thin figure is considered more acceptable, however, the author went about the piece in a rather insensitive way. Without any self-awareness, the writer shafted an entire demographic of females while trying to promote security for another; he did so by successfully praising the curvy lifestyle and shaming skinnier girls. One of the more well thought out comments beneath the Facebook post pointed out this discrimination in a manner that showed the importance of body confidence for all sizes. However, there were some people who clearly just wanted to add in their two cents without contemplating the ramifications. One post went so far as to completely disregard the meaning of the post and side with the author.

Another instance of rampant negativity comes in the form of famous Youtuber Felix Kjellberg, or Pewdiepie, removing access to the comment section of his videos. Now I have never watched a video of his, but another channel on Youtube known as The Young Turks discussed this action and expounded upon why the most subscribed to Youtube entertainer has taken such a drastic measure. Overall, he disabled the comment section because negative comments were consuming that part of the page, and Kjellberg wanted his videos to be a positive experience for his fans. The explanation The Young Turks gave for this issue was that the algorithm used by Youtube shows negative comments above all else, but if the most viewed and most popular comments are the negative ones, does that not still point out a problem in the way the Internet is being maneuvered? Yes, negativity is unavoidable at times, but why are there algorithms that place them at the top? And why are these becoming so popular in general?

The only plausible answer is that not enough personal responsibility is being taken in conjunction to the ever-expanding Internet. There are few tangible consequences to poor etiquette online because it is easy to create fake accounts or to even just comment and let the wave of constant media flush it away into a hidden state. For problems like these, we unfortunately must rely on others to be aware of their actions. So, when you log on to your favorite social media website or onto any part of the Internet, be consciously aware of what you are typing, because you have no idea who is on the receiving end. I know that I have probably made this same mistake before, but I find it important to remember that once you put something into the world, the reception you receive for such actions are not up to you. So the next time that you disagree with an article or video, tread the keyboard carefully.

Image: Gratisography

Culture

We communicate and relate to others through language. Not all of it has to be written or spoken. It can exist in many forms, such as computer code or even symbols, like the way a red light means stop. An example of this is American Sign Language, which allows people to sign their words. How we use language can provide identity.

We can learn about someone’s background in just a few words. The fact that there are so many languages means you can tell where someone is from in seconds. While there are many languages all over the world, almost every word in existence can translate to another language. That is impressive, especially considering different areas in the world have unique dialects. The United States is not just a melting pot in terms of all the types of people who live here. The English language is made up of words that started as the roots of other words from Latin and Greek. People are from all over the world, and that is reflected in our speech. On the West Coast, people “wait in line,” and on the East Coast, people “wait on line.” I’ve heard people in Indiana praise their accents over those in neighboring Kentucky. The world can feel small, but you can catch the subtle differences.

Words also speak about your education. Think of toddlers – at first, they can only say certain words as they need them. It is as far as their brains have developed. As time goes on, they learn how to string sentences together. By the time they are in high school and college, the way they talk says something about them. You might talk to your friends using slang, but it may not be appropriate to use slang when speaking to your boss or a teacher. The ability to differentiate between these two circumstances shows a command of language and an understanding of appropriateness.

We must be careful of what we say because words carry so much meaning. How many times have you said something thoughtlessly? Probably quite often because unlike term papers where words are chosen carefully, normal conversation does not always warrant much thought. I once had a friend talk to me about all that went wrong in her life. I kept saying “sorry” because I wanted to say something to comfort her. Instead, this upset her. She asked, “Why do you keep apologizing for things that are not your fault?” Saying “sorry” is meant to convey sympathy, but overuse can diminish the emotion behind the words. What you think is a casual remark could hurt someone else, and in turn, could shape their opinion of you.

Our location, education, and feelings are all conveyed in the words we speak and how we say them. That is why it is important to be yourself. People say you should think before you speak because you have no idea how much information is coded into every syllable. The next time you are out shopping or getting food, think of how you speak to the cashier or how they speak to you. You might earn more than you realize about communication if you pay attention.

Image: woodleywonderworks, Flickr

Culture

For those who have suffered with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the past years have been ones of little awareness and limited public knowledge about the illness. At one point most of the public only knew the disease as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for a famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in the late 1930s. However, with young people eager to spread the word, social media has been converted into a catalyst for the ALS cause via the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

It’s difficult to distinguish the exact origins of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but whoever started the challenge is responsible for one of the largest charitable social media efforts to date. The rules of the challenge are that one must pour freezing, ice filled water over their head and/or donate money the ALS Association (ALSA). After partaking in the challenge, the participant will nominate others to contribute to the cause. Those nominees will then have 24 hours to complete the same task. This challenge has brought necessary funds for research along with putting the topic of ALS at the forefront of public attention, which was previously a rarity for illnesses affecting smaller portions of the population.

Despite all of these positive effects, this challenge still does not fully succeed in educating the masses on ALS. In a recent video of the challenge, a 26 year old male, who had just been diagnosed with ALS, expounds upon the disease and the strife it has caused. This video really reminds you of how terrifying the disease actually is for those who experience ALS. The posts on Facebook and Instagram from your friends seem to leave out those harrowing details; they seem to help the cause while protecting their viewers from the chilling truth of ALS.

I was actually talking to one of the kids I babysit after I’d helped her record her challenge video, and she had no idea that the cold water is meant to represent how victims of ALS experience muscle weakness and atrophy. The circulation of these videos have taught the public that ALS is a worthy cause without telling them anything about the disease. Another video that caught my eye was the challenge taped by Charlie Sheen. Instead of pouring cold water over himself, he emptied a bucket of thousands of dollars on his head and explained how he was donating all of that cash to the ALS Association. He also proceeded to chastise those who only dumped water over themselves, which I thought was a little much, but I understand where he is coming from in this situation. Yes, the videos brought attention to ALS, but it has reached a point where some seem to do the challenge in exchange for likes on social media or to poke fun at a friend because they will have to get wet.

What I believe about this whole situation is that the challenge started out as a great idea but has spiraled into something different. The videos were intended to bring awareness, but without illuminating the issues of ALS in the video not much is being taught. Contributing to the challenge is still an awesome way to help with ALS awareness, but don’t forget to mention some of the effects of ALS or even encourage your friends to donate for research.

Image: Flickr

Culture

“State marriage bans, such as the one we have here in North Carolina, are living on borrowed time, it’s a matter of when– not if– they are struck down,” said Chris Brooks, a legal director for the ACLU of North Carolina, after the news came down from the U.S. Appeals Court stating that the bans on same-sex marriage in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia were unconstitutional. For the avid supporters of marriage equality, they have found relief in this news, viewing it as years of arduous work pursuing the creation of equality and obtaining support for inclusive, positive media as a success.

For years the LGBT community and its advocates have tried to gain support for equality, and during that time most homosexual entertainers suffered through the frustration and personal agony of staying “in the closet.” Remember when Rupert Everett, a hugely popular British actor in films such as My Best Friend’s Wedding and the second and third installments of Shrek, told other rising gay actors to stay in the closet because the truth would ruin their careers? But as time and progressive media has passed through culture, the LGBT image has been made palatable for the appetite of mainstream society and has helped to instill a need and desire for equality.

Early television shows like The Corner Bar and Hot I Baltimore produced some of the first gay characters shown in actual situations and relationships. This paved a path for shows like Friends, The O.C.,and Sex and The City to display gay and lesbian characters and storylines onscreen for millions of fans to see. However, the trend did not stop with small appearances on primetime shows; this trend has progressed to have entire story arc and shows centered on same-sex relationships.

For example, Ryan Murphy’s Glee was a big hit with audiences, and his character Kurt – who in the beginning was struggling with coming out – resonated with more than just LGBT youth. This is an excellent case of how media can be used to boost a worthy cause; by showing youth that a young gay man can deal with issues that parallel those of straight kids, Murphy helps teach tolerance and acceptance. Other shows that integrated same-sex relationships into modern society are HBO’s Girls and ABC’s Modern Family.

Our culture has also come very far in accepting gay and lesbian actors. As said earlier by Rupert Everett, there was a time when coming out meant absolute career suicide, but today there are many actors and actresses who have come out and maintained a successful career. A few examples are Neil Patrick Harris, Zachary Quinto, Sarah Paulson, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Although some say that not enough has been done to incorporate the LGBT image into the mainstream, we should all still be optimistic about this acceptance of everyone; we’ve come a long way. Yes, there have been, and still are, shows that stereotyped gay men – remember Queer Eye For the Straight Guy? – and there has been a persecution of the careers of gays who came out in the past, but to know that we are progressing out of this situation, that we are moving towards a state of equilibrium among acceptance of sexual orientation, should show that there is a lot to be hopeful for when looking towards the future.

Image: phillymag

Culture

With the U.S. patent office preparing to strip the Washington Redskins of their trademark, the team that has received much backlash might lose its ability to solely own the Redskins logo.

For years, American sports teams have come under fire for their mascots or team names that follow culturally insensitive caricatures of the Native American race. Stanford, Dartmouth, and Marquette are just a few schools who changed their trademarks in response to complaints from the Native American community. However, teams like the Washington Redskins still perpetuate these Native American stereotypes by fighting for their trademarks and claiming that they are honoring the culture through their use of an infamous racial slur.

Whatever intentions the Redskins hoped to make, it does not discount the fact that their actions preserve older viewpoints that were used to justify the oppression of tribes in the Old West. For example, in old Western films Native Americans were either portrayed as noble savages that existed as sidekicks to the John Wayne-esque hero of the film, or as bloodthirsty savages who tore their way through western American civilization, leaving carnage and despair in their wake. So these people were only ever viewed as those worthy of assimilation into white-society or as beasts to be sent for slaughter. These two portrayals are not only constrictive of the Native American culture, they are also still used constantly in American sports.

And, to an extent, American society has tried to make up for these indiscretions through film and media. Some Westerns such as The Searchers attempted to make the idea of miscegenation between Native Americans and Caucasians more palatable for society and hoped to show discrimination against tribes as a thing of the past. Also, in the 1970’s, the Keep America Beautiful campaign utilized The Crying Indian as a way to show Americans the downside of littering. But with all things aside, both forms of media exploited the bloodthirsty and noble savage institutions. Why can’t media portray Native Americans like they do Caucasians, as limitless beings?

One of the few accurate portrayals of Native Americans in film is in Smoke Signals. The film follows young Victor and his friend Thomas, two Coeur D’Alene Indians, as he comes to terms with his father’s death. But what is underneath the surface of the film is the idea of reconciliation with the past; the idea that sons can mend what fathers have broken.

And I believe that idea is the solution to all of this uproar with American sports teams like the Redskins. By using a person or race as a mascot, you are reducing them to the status of an animal- considering that is what most mascots are. We have done away with most logos that marginalize African Americans, so what is different about the Native Americans? And as the Washington Redskins prepare for the appeals court in order to protect their patent on their mascot, I hope people keep in mind the fact that this racial slur is a commonality of the past. As the present and future of society, it is vital to be culturally sensitive and to fix what social issues past civilizations threw to the wayside.

Image: Business Insider

 

CultureEducation

Yep, we’ve all heard about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s daughter, baby North. And most of us are pretty aware of who the current World Cup championship title holder is: Spain (and hopefully most of us know where it’s located on a map).

Moreover, just about anyone who’s anyone has heard of Miley Cyrus’s twerkfest at the VMAs this past year.

Don’t believe me? Three hundred and fifty-seven first and second-year students from popular universities on the East Coast (including, but not limited to, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Duke University, Elon University, and Brown University) anonymously answered these questions to test their general knowledge on news events. I even got a few answers from students living outside the country. Let’s take a look:

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Wow! What an overwhelming number of correct responses to each of these questions (especially the last one). As you can see, the results gathered from these questions indicate that we know quite a bit about what’s hot in pop culture and sports. But what about other types of news stories, such as those dealing with racism, discrimination, murder, and hate? How many of us have heard about the 2007 story of renowned Hindu priest Rajan Zed being discriminated against while opening a prayer for the US Senate? I didn’t even know about this event until recently— seven years after it happened— so I’m not exactly bereft of any ignorance to the event either. Let’s look at some additional poll results to see if anyone else knew about this:

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It’s astoundingly clear that many more people were unaware of this news event than the first three they were polled on (including myself). Here’s some background on what went down: Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric, appeared as a guest Chaplain at the United States Senates, where he opened (or attempted to open) the day with a Hindu prayer. Sudden interjections with passages from the Bible were made by Ante and Kathy Pavkovic, two devout Christians. Theological outcries became rampant in the Senate, but Zed was eventually allowed to complete the prayer. After the event, many radical Christians openly rebuked the US Senate for even allowing a Hindu to open prayer before many pious Christians, a sin far too gruesome to ignore.

Amongst the religious hodgepodge and fervent defense for Christianity, Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt stated “…Zed committed the sin of idolatry, right there in public, violating the first of God’s Ten Commandments with full government permission.” However, Klingenschmitt and many other protestors did not acknowledge the fact that the United States of America runs one of its governmental principles on the freedom of speech, blatantly stated in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. This means that people in the US are allowed to pray freely and practice any religion, be it Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or Satanism.

There was also another question on my poll about a more recent event. A Muslim student in the United Kingdom was stabbed repeatedly because she wore a hijab. I asked students if they heard about this event. Here are the results:

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Once again, a vast number of those polled had not heard about this event either. A couple of students even refrained from answering. Here’s a bit about what happened: Muslim PhD student Nahid Almanea fell victim to a brutal attack in which she was stabbed sixteen times in the head and the back for wearing a religious outfit. Another attack of a similar nature occurred in the past three months, as well. This prompted Essex police to tell residents not to walk outside in private areas until the murderer is found.

I asked students one final question: Do you think Zed and Almanea’s stories contain instances of hate crime? Take a look at the results:

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That’s a pretty good consensus, one that’s almost hard to ignore. Hate crimes are defined as crimes directed at characteristics such as race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Crimes can range from hateful/discriminatory speech to murder. Insults thrown at Zed after the tiff at the Senate and the murder of Almanea could be possible examples of hate crime. So, why haven’t the majority of us heard about these unjust, important, and newsworthy stories?

Let’s take a detour and reexamine the title of this article: So, have you heard…? It’s evident that North is cooing in her crib, Spain is a winner, and Miley is twerking herself through her day, but do we really have any idea about what’s actually going on around the globe? I requested students to answer the following question on the same survey: “If you’re unaware of some of these events, why do you think you’re unaware?” Here are a few responses I found:

“The media is manipulated to air garbage news to keep the people unaware. Knowledge is power and our political leaders know that.”

A bit 1984-esque, if you ask me, but I received a lot of responses like this one. I cannot tell you if the government has some sort of role in this conspiracy theory, but perhaps a country’s government would cover up news like this so people don’t form a bad opinion upon the institution of government.

“Frankly, the news just does not care about real world events. It is a much bigger deal to talk about Miley Cyrus twerking than to discuss matters that really affect our society. Media shapes the way we think and lately, all the media cares about is celebrities and meaningless drama. It is a lot easier to discuss who is winning a soccer game than to report about the stabbing of a young student. And in the end, average Americans would rather hear about the soccer game. It reinforces the idea that we live in a perfect world, instead of the harsh reality that bad things everyday without any logical reason.”

Perfectly logical! We all want to live in a utopian society, or believe that our society is already utopic. In general, we would much rather hear about good or funny things, or perhaps even events that make us feel better about ourselves instead of the harsh and vitriolic reality we’re really surrounded by.

“The high school culture that I have been living in places more importance upon things of popular culture, such as the VMAs and Miley Cyrus. If I don’t know about twerking and the VMAs, I can be ostracized by my peers. But do they care about a Muslim student who was stabbed to death for wearing a hijab? No. There’s something about high school that makes it its own little world, where popularity and knowledge of pop culture are supposed to rank highest in our lives.”

It’s true. Veritably enough, the high school society we’ve all experienced found twerking amusing. If you were to say that you haven’t heard about Miley twerking at the VMAs, people would pause mid-conversion to demand you “Excuse me? HOW HAVE YOU NOT HEARD…LIKE OH MY GOSH.”  Unfortunately, it is normal for people to view others who aren’t exactly like us as “different” or “weird.” Whether she wears a hijab or a bindi or if he decides to wear a yamaka, certain people tend to veer away and associate with people they perceive to be more like them. Instead of acknowledging that different sorts of people exist, we’d rather learn about what type of drama is going on in a celebrity’s life…probably because it’s easier for us to read and digest.

Finally, I posed one more question: What do you think you can do to be more globally aware, instead of just having a limited awareness to pop culture? Here are some answers I received:

“Go to news sources like BBC, Aljazeera, Aaj Tak, and the New York Times. Go directly to the world news section, too. Oh yeah, stop reading celebrity gossip on Yahoo! News. That’s crap. Take 15 minutes out of your day and read some real, non-brain numbing stories.”

Great suggestions for finding news. International stations are worthy enough to be looked at by our young eyes. Also, that’s a good tip. A little bit of time invested each day can make you much more informed.

“Befriend foreign people to gain insight into events pertaining to other people around the world.”

Having a diverse group of friends is a great idea. You could learn a lot about other cultures and the daily lives of those around you. And besides…who wouldn’t want more friends?

 “Me? How about addressing the MEDIA’s focus on the inane? That’s where the problem is.”

I knew someone was going to say something like this. We endorse and support the media and their current stories through the amount of views they get. We control what we share on social media. Practically, without the youth, there is no media because we are the ones who shape it. If we find Miley twerking more entertaining than any global event…well, the media will broadcast that to get their ratings up. A change in our thinking can consolidate future knowledge about what actually matters.

It’s crazy to think that so much is happening in our small world, yet a lot of the youth remains unaware of what’s really happening. We focus on five percent of the world’s population when we read celebrity gossip and sports insiders, but what about the 95 percent of the average people out there? Do we know enough about other countries? Probably not.

I’m going to try to take some of the suggestions I’ve garnered from this survey and implement them into my daily routine. I’m going to attempt to seize all the opportunities I’m presented with, and make the most out of my youth with all the knowledge I collect in my six by six cranial reservoir. What about you?