Two people are living on an island in a grove of trees that they planted together.
^ “We live in this country that right across the street in my own neighborhood you’ve got these million dollar condos and you’ve got people begging outside of them…just for some food. That a loaf of bread and some cheese would change their whole week. It would change their life in that moment. But you have people wasting food, and you’ve got politicians in this city closing down clinics and schools and only in black, minority areas…and you have these fucking cops that are out here preying on us and preying on our children, to their point where you can be a law-abiding citizen and you’re still scared once you see them. What do they do for the people who are out here hungry, starving, desolate, hopeless…you don’t know when you see these homeless people, or when you see somebody hungry, or even when you see somebody robbing somebody else…even when you talk about all these crimes, especially non-violent crimes, when you see these non-violent crimes it’s because we’re out here hungry…how do you think these kids feel when you close down their school? They know nobody cares about them, they know they’re in a system that nobody cares about them… It’s for survival…The system wasn’t made for us. The system wasn’t set up for us…We’re made to starve. We’re made to rob. We’re made to go to prison, to make them some more money.” -Chyna Fox
“The political goals of rioters in Baltimore are not unclear—just as they were not unclear when poor, Black people rioted in Ferguson last fall. When the free market, real estate, the elected government, the legal system have all shown you they are not going to protect you—in fact, that they are the sources of the greatest violence you face—then political action becomes about stopping the machine that is trying to kill you, even if only for a moment, getting the boot off your neck, even if it only allows you a second of air. This is exactly what blocking off streets, disrupting white consumerism, and destroying state property are designed to do.”
The Ohio University administration and Board of Trustees do not give a s*** about you.
They have entered negotiations for the construction of a natural gas pipeline through your community. It’s probably not safe. It’s probably going to be a threat to your health. Think fracking. Think polluted water. But OU is flying into this arrangement in order to meet an approaching deadline – a deadline by which they must reduce their dependence on coal as an energy source.
The process for extracting natural gas is not better. It’s probably just as dirty as coal, even if waste shows up at different points in the process. The reason there are not as many restrictions, if any, on natural gas usage is that it’s a newer industry. And those who profit off of natural gas will continue trying to hide any evidence that it is a threat to the environment and public health. They will continue to hurt poor and marginalized communities, placing facilities which degrade the environment and the health of the community.
OU has done little to nothing before now to meet requirements of reduced coal usage. It has missed many opportunities to make the switch to renewable energy during construction or renovation projects on university buildings. And now, because of their short-sightedness, the administration and Board of Trustees are content to continue making the poorest county in Ohio the guinea pig for everything they can do wrong. Rather than asking for an extension on their deadline or doing research into renewable energy options, they’re content to slide this pipeline right by you.
This Monday, April 27th, email the OU administration and Board of Trustees and tell them to halt their negotiations. Tell them your health and the health of the environment matters. Tell them if this is the best they can do, someone else should be doing their jobs.
Board of Trustees: email@example.com
Board of Trustees Secretary Peter Mather: firstname.lastname@example.org
Roderick McDavis, President of Ohio University: email@example.com
Pam Benoit, Executive Vice President and Provost of Ohio University: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Lalley, Senior Vice President of Technologies and Administration of Ohio University: email@example.com
On many occasions, I have engaged in conversation with someone or witnessed an interaction among people which leaves me absolutely furious.
I’ve spend my life trying to do what’s best for everyone and to make everyone around me happy. It hurts me to know that sometimes that’s not what’s immediately important.
Because sometimes, the most important thing is to be angry.
As long as there is inequality in the world among humans, we must be angry. We must reach out and express that we know this isn’t right, and we mustn’t shame ourselves or anyone else for being angry. We mustn’t allow anger to be used as an excuse to ignore someone’s cry for equality. However angry their cry, they are doing a kindness for the world.
In these moments, when inequality fills us with anger, equality precedes kindness. I mean two things by this – that those who cry for equality are being kind to the world, including themselves and every other human being, by doing so – and that those who defend inequality are doing an ultimate unkindness.
When inequality occurs, no one who is treated as a lesser human being is under any obligation to behave with “decorum”. Being angry at a person who defends inequality may be a momentary discomfort to them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not kind. Sometimes people who treat others as their inferiors need to be made uncomfortable, made to doubt, before they can embrace the joy of treating everyone as an equal. Sometimes people who are treated as inferiors need to love themselves enough to embrace their anger, and to know that their anger is good and kind.
My Letter to the Editor in The New Political
Something incredible happened to me today.
In my Contemporary Social Movements class, we began watching a documentary entitled “The Square”. It was directed by Jehane Noujaim; she filmed some of the members of the ongoing revolution in Egypt and the experiences which surrounded them. Beginning in early 2011, people filled up Tahrir Square and later took to the streets again to demand freedom from an oppressive regime. Ahmed Hassan, a young Egyptian, and Khalid Abdalla, a British-Egyptian actor, were two of the primary individuals portrayed in the documentary. (Here is a picture of them – Khalid on the left, Ahmed on the right.)
They were among those who wanted something better. The people who were fed up with the corruption and injustice of their government – the people who wanted freedom for themselves and their fellow Egyptians, who wanted a better world – they gathered in Tahrir Square. The built tents, they shared hope and ideas of freedom, and they raised their voices together. One of the first times I cried while watching the film was during these moments of unified expression and love and hope between the members of the revolution. There were much sadder tears to come later.
Ahmed Hassan and Khalid Abdalla were able to witness the great victory of their people when Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his position as the head of the regime. But that was not where it ended. A new, oppressive and corrupt ruler would take his place. The military would instigate violent attacks on the revolutionaries filling the square and later the streets. I cried to see people run over and killed by tanks. I cried to see Ahmed wounded and bloodied in the head after being shot by the military. I was full of fury when one of the people of the revolution picked up a tear-gas canister and noticed that it was made in the United States. I listened to the revolutionaries discussing how the media around the world was attempting to defend the actions of the military and the regime, attempting to paint the revolutionaries as ‘thugs’. These shameful actions by the media of the world are all too common. They defend the wealthy and the powerful, and not the oppressed. But the revolutionaries were able to get footage of the brutal violence they were experiencing at the hands of the military, and it spread around the world. They never stopped. They knew what they wanted, and they would not give up.
They filled me with so much emotion that I would be a bit shaky for the rest of the day.
The film ended with the millions who took to the streets of Egypt in protest in 2013. The numbers of the revolution had multiplied. People like Ahmed had inspired others to raise their voices in protest. He remarked happily that the children were playing protest games. He hoped for a better future for the people of Egypt and people all around the world.
When I finished watching this documentary, I searched Twitter and Facebook for Ahmed Hassan to see if I could learn any more about him. I quickly found him on both sites, with his profile picture from “The Square”. I friended Ahmed on Facebook.
Soon after, he friended me back.
I wrote a message to him, telling him how unwaveringly brave I thought he was and how happy I was that he had so much hope, and would do whatever he could for a better future. I told him that I was furious at the things many people in my country have done to people around the world. I told him that I hoped to work with people like him to make the world a better place.
He messaged me back.
He said that he was honored and happy to get my message and expressed his hope that what they had done and continue to do would inspire others. I told him that I would be happy to meet him someday, and that I plan to fight against injustice everywhere in the world. He mentioned how far-reaching the power of a regime can be, and encouraged me to remind others that the members of a regime do not just oppress people, they control the rest of the world as well. They encourage us to ignore or deny or even encourage that oppression.
That was one of the coolest exchanges I’ve ever had. I made a friend across the ocean, and I will never forget what he has done. We are connected, as humans in this world. And we will continue to work for a better world.
Ahmed, thank you so much for everything.
Everyone, please watch “The Square”, directed by Jehane Noujaim. It is now on Netflix. Learn more about the film at http://thesquarefilm.com/.
I ended up at this video when I was trying to find out more about the plane crash that occurred in the French Alps last week.
I still don’t pretend to know much about what happened there, and it’s not primarily what I wanted to talk about. Though, the reports I have seen surrounding this event have left me with many questions, such as: If the pilot had been a Muslim, would the media have gone to any effort at all to learn the individual’s mental health history? I would not be surprised if, had that been the situation, Fox News implied religious motivation before even making the effort to look into the individual’s background. “Terrorist” would probably be used to refer to the individual before they even learned their name. I don’t know. But given that every snippet of their show I’ve been unfortunate enough to witness is gag-worthy in the obviousness of its capitalist-extolling, racism- and sexism- and homophobia- and transphobia- promoting, ‘otherness’-shaming, fear-inducing agenda….again, I would not be surprised.
Media outlets like Fox News don’t care about people, and they don’t care about what actually happened. They care about giving viewers someone to blame so that, as Russell said, the corporate elite (who control major media outlets) can “keep things the way they are”. They tell people that “it’s individuals that malfunction, not societies, cultures, financial systems”, etc., because any effort to reform the way society functions would require redistributing power back to the people. Calling attention to the fact that individuals don’t necessarily just “go nutty” – that there are so many external factors in all of our lives which potentially effect our emotional well-being – is a direct threat to an individualistic culture which places the blame on each individual for all of their problems. We are expected to take the blame for every single bad thing that happens to us, because once we don’t – once we decide that it’s not our fault and that we want to work against the forces which are working against us – we are a threat to everyone currently sitting comfortably in power.
This applies to so many struggles people in the United States (and probably other places) face every day. This is a place where we are told not to extend compassion to those in poverty, because they are lazy and they deserve what they are experiencing. This is a place where we are told to value the “rights” of businesses over the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination. This is a place where we are told that the lives of those in authority are worth more than the lives of the people they abuse.
We are raised in a country that claims to be the ultimate defender of “liberty and justice for all”, while it also says that corporations are people, is in constant denial about the systemic forces which have always been at work here against people of color (and which are to blame for their rates of poverty, unemployment, imprisonment, etc.), treats new immigrants like unwanted trash and rationalizes their expulsion using faulty economic theory, continues to condemn women who think they can define themselves, shames people of non-heterosexual orientation for being who they are, refuses to acknowledge the identities of those who do not identify with gender norms, wages wars in the interests of the wealthy corporate elite while dishonestly attempting to rationalize its atrocities to its own people and the rest of the world…….and so on.
Of COURSE rates of anxiety and depression are high (I know anxiety is an emotion and a broader category of mental illness, rather than a specific one, and that depression is characterized as a mood disorder – I’ll talk more about that later). The society we live in offers up enough injustices to trigger negative emotions every day, along with very few moral victories to give us any form of closure. We’re expected to see others suffering and do nothing. We are expected to blame them for their own problems and not to challenge the system which condemns them to their situations. We are expected to follow the trails of blame and distraction cast out by media and authority figures rather than trust ourselves to spot the roots of our society’s problems. We’re expected to expect no help from anyone else. When we get upset by all the parts of society that are pushing us down – the parts we are trained never to think directly about – we are expected to distract ourselves again…work harder…buy something to make us feel better. It doesn’t work. But if we realize it’s not working, what are we left with? We can try to talk to other people in our lives about what we are experiencing, but the language to express dissatisfaction with the way things are has been carefully distanced from our vocabulary. Even if we manage to express our dissatisfaction, what if there is no hope to be found? What if those around us don’t believe it can get any better? What if they just ask us ‘not to think about it’ and try to move along, with the same pattern over and over again: distract ourselves…work harder…buy something that makes us feel better.
Now, I realize that in some cases, emotions such as anxiety and sadness may occur in extents and patterns which do not lead to the diagnosis of a mental illness such as generalized anxiety disorder (an anxiety disorder) or depression (a mood disorder). But HOW, in the case of a person whose genetics give them the POTENTIAL to develop certain patterns or higher levels of such emotions, are these societal influences frequently NOT recognized as MAJOR TRIGGERING FACTORS? Why do we always look for a particular event, or the behaviors of a particular family member which may have influenced our chemical emotional reactions and processes, rather than noting the abundant reasons to be sad or anxious or angry that we are all potentially exposed to every single day? Why do we focus so much attention and blame on the actions of the individual and their closest people, rather than the broader cultural environment which surrounds us constantly and continues to fuel negative emotions? Why do we often seek to treat mental illnesses by completely isolating the individual from the environment which has contributed to how they feel, and try to get them to remember, assign a simple tag to, and mentally undo every negative thought they have had, as if the negative emotion contributing to that thought and the reasons that have triggered that emotion can be undone? How is that supposed to be effective when they will be exposed to the same environment and the same realities of injustice, distraction, and the painful attitudes of individualism we are expected to hold every single day?
I’m not saying that talking to someone about our negative emotions can’t sometimes help, just for the benefit of being able to speak to someone about them without immediately being considered “whiny” or “self-centered”. Nor am I saying that societal factors alone bring on mental illness. Studies of our brains and bodies have suggested that those who develop certain extents or patterns of emotions may have certain structural or chemical qualities, particularly involving the brain (on a small scale) in common, and there may be certain genetic factors contributing to these chemical or structural patterns which make the occurrence of certain levels or patterns of emotions to be possible. But just because one has the potential to develop what we have decided qualifies as a mental illness does not mean that one is biologically guaranteed to do so. Our genetics are under constant influence from our environment, which may be capable of providing certain triggering factors. Even mental illnesses which are not characterized as anxiety disorders or mood disorders – such as schizophrenia/psychotic disorders – are suggested to involve genetic factors potentially triggered into onset by an environment that brings about negative emotions such as anxiety.
Our society presents us with plenty of potential triggers for negative emotions. For some, these emotions may not necessarily develop into what is currently considered a mental illness by medical standards. But I think we should all be more aware and open about the ways society puts us down, because it might help us to understand that many of those who are struggling are experiencing the same emotions we are – maybe even brought about by similar circumstances – even if they experience those emotions in different levels and patterns. Even if they express them in different ways. We are all victims of many of the same pressures and injustices and harmful forces in our society. But we can help ourselves and each other at once if we refuse to let ourselves be distracted and told who to blame, if we stop letting those in power tell us how to respond to things, if we stop letting people tell us that our emotions are things we have little or no reason to be feeling…if we extend compassion to all those around us and refuse to blame ourselves or those who are also struggling at the hands of those in power…we can make things better.
I would also like to say that I do not believe societal factors are the only contributing factors to mental illnesses and that working against these factors may not necessarily be all it takes to combat every individual’s mental illness. Medication is not something to be stigmatized or to be condemned as a method for the weak. That mindset just goes along with the same individual-blaming attitude that we are expected to have. We should recognize that for those with a genetic potentiality for a medically defined mental illness, and for those who have developed what is medically considered a mental illness, medication may be helpful in its influence on biological mechanisms and may make someone feel better in some way. Recognizing that change needs to be made on a societal level does not mean that individuals should be denied the opportunity to pursue any method that makes them feel subjectively better, and we should not in any way attempt to devalue that decision. We should continue to ask for further research into the mechanisms of our brains and bodies, potentially in order to work towards medications which can help people feel the way they want to feel and live the way they want to live. We must place accountability on society and on those working with medicine to make these advances responsibly, compassionately, and safely. And we should all continue to treat each other with compassion and to value each other’s happiness.
I think that’s about all I have to say today.:) Thanks for reading!