One piece of local advice to any newcomer to the D.C. metro area is this: avoid the metro like the plague during the Fourth of July, the Cherry Blossom Festival, or any major tourist-attracting event – especially an inauguration – unless you really, really want to be there. Getting in might not be an issue, but getting out can be next to impossible, unless you have the fortune to live within walking distance. I remember the time when I was fourteen that my parents decided to take me and my seven-year-old brother into the District for the Cherry Blossom Festival, only for us to be stranded and forced to walk two or more hours from the National Mall over the bridge into Virginia, in the hopes that the metro station in Rosslyn would be less crowded than those near the festival itself.
For many, the Women’s March on Washington began without climax. There was no unified call to action, no inspiring speech heard by all. Instead, the march began much as it had developed – somewhat haphazardly, brought on by the size of the crowd itself rather than unified action.
Is colonialism a bad thing? It is fashionable to think so, and with good reason. Genocide, racism, slavery, depredation, epidemics, cultural inferiority complexes, etc., are all traceable to Europe’s colonial expansion beginning in the 16th Century. It would be naïve to think it is over, even if the United Nations’ list of non-self-governing territories is rather short. Colonialism persists. Whether it is America invading Iraq to get its oil, or Nike setting up sweatshops in Bangladesh, colonialism is alive and kicking, and it continues to cause great damage to people of color.
Last week, I saw a group of people cross the street to avoid a guy wearing a Trump t-shirt. On Facebook several days ago, my friend shared some pictures of a big pile of pink hats made by her knitting circle. Her aunt, also a crafty type, asked her what they were. When my friend replied that they were “pussy” hats for the Women’s March in L.A., her aunt replied, “Geez. Sorry I asked.”
The days since the inauguration of President Trump have been filled with demonstrations and protest. The inauguration itself was viewed significantly less than those prior, and what may have been the largest protest in our history followed the next day. It is noteworthy that while over three million people gathered in the Women’s March nationally, it was “peaceful,” with no arrests at the main locus of the protests in Washington, D.C., or at the sister marches in Los Angeles and New York City.
There’s no question that technology has caused Americans and others around the world to work more. It’s not uncommon for a typical white-collar job in the United States to come with a company phone, company iPad and company computer. All these devices contribute to increased work and work-related stress. Carol Olsby, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s expertise panel, states, “Technology allows us to work anywhere, anytime.” This culture of overworking is prominent in the United States and worldwide, and has detrimental effects for mental health.
This year will mark a variety of experiments in alternatives to standards models of welfare in the West.
Traditionally, revenue collected from taxes is devoted to programs that provide particular services to citizens in need of assistance. Some form of credits or relief from paying for groceries, rent, school tuition, and medical assistance are standard areas of government aid.
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Despite increasing secularism around the globe, belief in ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon remains prominent in many cultures. 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, and 52% in the United Kingdom. Many more believe in ghosts in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where ancient cultures still thrive – superstitions and all. Regardless of whether or not ghosts are real, belief in the paranormal has important societal functions. Belief in the paranormal helps humans assign order to an increasingly chaotic world, create social bonds, and even boost physical and mental function (another reason to keep knocking on wood.) Although belief in the paranormal can seem like a harmless pastime, is there a downside to having superstitions?
Shortly after WWII, Winston Churchill had a paranormal experience in the White House. Stepping out of the bathtub, he was reportedly confronted by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Singular paranormal experiences such as Churchill’s can be explained by stress, fatigue, and dim lighting. Could this paranormal experience have been triggered by the stress of leading the West during WWII? People who experience paranormal phenomenon on a daily basis are less easy to explain, and are now said to be “shielding” themselves from feeling out of control. In times of chaos, the human brain searches for patterns of meaning, and humanity’s anthropomorphist nature wants to assign control to seemingly random or unexplainable events. It is easier for the mind to imagine a tragedy being caused by malignant spirits than by complete randomness. Arguably, using belief in the paranormal as a shield functions similarly to playing immersive video games or watching television dramas every week.
In folklore there is a method of storytelling called ostension, or legend-tripping. In this style of folklore, storytellers act out the legend they reiterate. Ghost hunting is arguably a type of legend-tripping. Similar to folklorists re-telling a legend, participants take the task of unveiling the truth about ghosts quite seriously. This immersive legend-tripping experience can become a distraction from everyday life, which has both positive and negative consequences. One example is that belief in the paranormal offers a reason for traumatic events like disease, death, and natural disaster. Holding such a belief helps one feel more in control of the world around them. However, holding such a belief could make it harder for someone to face the unpredictable world around them.
However, if ghosts are eventually proven to be completely fake, an entire structure of meaning will break down. Justin McDaniel, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania explains just how important this structure of meaning is for many cultures: “People in Asia have kept their belief in ghosts despite the rise of science, skepticism, secularism, and public education… Even hyper-modern and liberal Scandinavia has a high percentage of people believing in ghosts.” Even with the advancements in science to explain phenomenon that was previously considered to be paranormal, including out-of-body experiences and sleep paralysis, paranormal explanations persist. Sleep paralysis is still interpreted as a ghost experience in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Newfoundland, Canada. The belief in the paranormal functions as an important structure of meaning that unites people around the world, whether it is through watching a favorite television show in the United Kingdom or sacrificing and eating a hog at a family ceremony in Asia.
Despite these important social functions, the downside of belief in the paranormal is the growing inability to mentally process an uncontrollable world. Pursuing the paranormal through television shows, weekends out ghost hunting, or holding superstitions about disease and disaster is a form of escapism that can have negative consequences in the long run. For example, a family with a child suffering from epilepsy may choose to perform an exorcism versus getting medical treatment, which may have negative consequences for the child. Also, an individual who believes natural disasters are caused by a deity may blame themselves for natural disasters, thinking that the deity is angry with them. Both of these are examples of how belief in the paranormal, particularly in its potential forces on the world around, can be more harmful than believing the world is ruled by happenstance.
Christopher French, a professor of psychology at the University of London, comments on the reasons people choose to believe in the paranormal: “There is also the emotional motivation for these beliefs. The vast majority of us don’t like the idea of our own mortality. Even though we find the idea of ghosts and spirits scary, in a wider context, they provide evidence for the survival of the soul.” Belief in the paranormal can be a way to escape one’s own mortality, which contributes to a Western perspective on death, one of fear and avoidance. Furthermore, holding superstitious beliefs and pursuing answers about the paranormal takes away time that a person could spend on important tasks in the present as opposed to the afterlife. Ghost hunting takes away time one could spend volunteering at a local non-profit or participating in political activism. However, one could also argue that ghost hunting is as harmless a hobby as browsing social media or scrapbooking. If ghost hunting is considered a form of escapism that is detrimental to one’s connection with reality, other hobbies arguably could have the same effect.
Although many psychologists explain paranormal encounters as minor hallucinations or dim lighting, belief in ghosts does not seem like it will dissipate in the near future. At the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, the Division of Perceptual Studies investigates phenomena that current scientific methods cannot explain. Dr. Jim Tucker at DOPS focuses on finding evidence that human personalities persist after death by examining children who report memories that are not their own. One young patient started having horrific nightmares at the age of 2 about plane crashes, and started reporting memories consistent with a WWII fighter jet pilot. Some would explain this phenomenon in the child as minor brain damage, a plea for parental affection, or shielding from growing up. Others would hail this example as modern day reincarnation. Although opinions are still divided on the existence of ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon, it is clear that belief in ghosts has important cultural functions that should be taken seriously.
Working an inflexible nine-to-five schedule is often not conducive to the demands of ordinary life. Parents find themselves missing events at their children’s schools that occur during the day. Cautious workers manage their sick days conservatively, not knowing what health challenges the year might bring. Taking a day to care for personal psychological health strikes many as an impractical luxury.
It is a time-tested notion of politics that the delivery matters just as much as, perhaps more than, the message. It is also a notion that feels painfully appropriate to describe our current times, as the country prepares to inaugurate a former reality show star to its highest office. In light of Donald Trump’s ascendence, and in preparation for the days to come, those looking to rein in the President-elect’s most unethical tendencies are approaching this lesson with fresh eyes.
One of President-elect Donald Trump’s key campaign promises was to stop companies from shipping American jobs overseas. Since his election in November, he has already claimed credit for making progress on this promise. The President-elect has claimed credit for stopping Carrier from moving jobs in Indiana to Mexico. More recently, Ford announced that it had cancelled plans to build a new car manufacturing facility in Mexico. The January 3 New York Times article linked to above suggests that Ford’s decision was partially a response to Trump’s plans on trade policy.
Secret meetings in Moscow and Prague. Business leaders conducting sordid affairs with prostitutes. Russian intelligence services blackmailing the President of the United States.
The allegations sound like they found their way out of a political thriller. Yet they are all allegations leveled at Donald Trump and his presidential campaign in a dossier published in full yesterday by Buzzfeed. The report, formulated by a private intelligence firm during the 2016 election, was commissioned by Trump’s political opponents and details allegations that Russia has amassed embarrassing information to blackmail Trump once he becomes president. The dossier also alleges that surrogates for the Trump campaign met repeatedly with high-level Russian actors and discussed matters, including the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
Philosopher Derek Parfit died on January 1st. Let us hope he will go to heaven. Will he? Parfit, who was an agnostic, was not much concerned with the existence of heaven or hell. But, he did famously argue that, even if such places do exist, the person going there would not be the same person who previously died. And, thus, someone would be punished or rewarded for the deeds of another person. This is deeply unjust, as unfair as sending someone to prison because of the crimes committed by his identical twin brother.
A recent auction of bluefin tuna at the Tsukiji market in Tokyo sparked recurring discussions over the environmental and economic effects that overfishing and big tuna businesses are putting on local areas and fisheries. This came as a 212-kilogram fish sold at Tsukiji for 74.2 million yen (or the equivalent $64,200), which per piece would cost over 25 times the 400 yen usually charged at the bidder’s restaurants.
In its 128th year of publication, National Geographic has put the spotlight on gender issues. As a renowned culture and travel magazine with significant resources, National Geographic has tremendous influence on how important issues are perceived by its wide audience. “Gender Revolution” is inherently a weighted title for their latest project, implying that a deep-seated problem is in need of revolution, and that their project sheds light on this problem. National Geographic interviewed over 100 nine-year-olds from around the world to gain their perspective on gender, as well as shared stories of many individuals who identify as more than male or female. The “Gender Revolution” is a battle for the fluidity of gender that encroaches more sensitive subjects besides gender.
Just before Christmas, prisoners serving long terms for human rights abuses during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile received a mass and asked for forgiveness from the families of their victims. Some families of the victims protested the mass, and many human rights advocates dismissed these moves by the prisoners as empty, and not genuine steps towards earning forgiveness.
Forgiveness is often seen as a virtue, a good-making feature of a life well lived. To forgive is to let go of the blame we feel towards those who wrong us. Letting go of negative feelings can seem like an obvious good, a move towards a more positive way of living. When we hurt each other and let one another down, we make amends, apologize, and aim to get past states of blame and hurt. When someone who harms us apologizes, forgiving them is how the relationship can move forward.
As Donald Trump prepares to assume the Presidency of the United States, many have speculated on whether the candidate will be constrained by the United States’ system of checks and balances. Some, such as Newsweek’s Stacy Hilliard, have assured concerned citizens that U.S. democratic institutions will function as designed, ultimately withstanding any single leader and keeping Trump in line. Writing just days after Trump’s victory, Hilliard argued that Congress would provide the strongest check on the President, noting that, “The legislative branch’s purpose is to be the voice of the people, and it historically does not like being dictated to from the White House.” Though Trump’s policies may be worrying, she argued, Congress would act to filter out the workable from the impractical, discriminatory and unconstitutional, constraining his presidency within the bounds of a long-stable governmental system.
The world only knows Indian music from Bollywood’s “filmy” ballads and cinematic love songs. Music in India seems to enter the world in few forms other than through the cinema industry. However, Bollywood does an incomplete job of representing the music of India just as the iTunes charts would to America—representing only the big, mainstream record artists. Under the wraps of a Bollywood-obsessed entertainment scene, there is a burgeoning independent Indian music industry that is teeming with life and passion. It is young, determined, and rebellious. This indie music industry surfaces many interesting questions about art’s long–standing struggle against capitalist values and the role of anti-establishment industries in societies like India’s.
In 2006, Simon Shiao Tam founded the Asian-American band The Slants. As the group became increasingly successful, Tam opted to pursue federal trademark protection for the band name. Trademark protection is important for both producer and consumer; the producer can feel confident that no one is unfairly capitalizing on the fruits of their labor, and the consumer can be sure that the product that they are purchasing is the one that they intend to purchase; they can be sure that it is not a product produced by an imposter using the same name. If granted the trademark protection, Shiao’s Asian-American band would own exclusive rights to the name The Slants.
On December 4th, North Carolina resident Edgar Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant, with an assault rifle strapped to his chest. Inside, he reportedly fired several shots and pointed his rifle at a Comet Ping Pong employee as the restaurant’s patrons scattered. No bystanders were injured, and once Welch failed to find what he came for, he surrendered to police.
This week, Welch will return to court in relation to the incident at Comet Ping Pong, a dramatic turn in what has become known as the “Pizzagate” conspiracy. For weeks prior to the attack, online conspiracy theorists had besieged the restaurant with baseless accusations that it has conspired with politicians like Hillary Clinton to traffic and abuse young children. Welch reportedly latched onto these conspiracies, ultimately deciding to take matters into his own hands through a vigilante “investigation.” While Welch’s legal guilt may seem straightforward, the ethical questions his case raises underscore the complexities of moral responsibility in the time of fake news.