Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Fake Interpreter? The Deaf Community Left Behind at Mandela Memorial

It has been pretty hard to ignore the passing of the nationally beloved South African leader, Nelson Mandela. It's is all over the news and people are mourning worldwide. Many came to South Africa either in person, or made the journey through computer or TV screens to honor this man at his memorial service on Tuesday. On a day of remembrance, one group of people seemed to have been forgotten.  

A screenshot from the current news stories on Yahoo!, all relating to Nelson Mandela.
The deaf community around the world in infuriated, claiming that the sign language interpreter and translator at the Mandela memorial service was a fake, which made it impossible for these people to understand. As awful and almost unbelievable as this seems, it has happened before, with the same interpreter. 

This man, still unnamed, has interpreted at other events, where people claimed that we was completely inaccurate. How could the South American government, who organized the memorial service, let this happen again?

CNN covered this controversy, and in an interview with Bruno Druchen, leader of the Deaf Federation of South Africa, he stated that the failed interpretation was "a total mockery of the language". It seems as though the government could have put in a little more effort and hired a well-respected and knowledgeable interpreter, instead of the man who caused so much upset through his inaccuracies. This act of the government may suggest the marginalization of the deaf community; they were left out of a worldwide event, while the problem was so preventable. The large deaf community may now be seen as unimportant, not even worth the governments time of finding a reliable interpreter. Many people were upset by this situation; reactions include "appalled", "offensive", " and "[an] outrage". 

Of course, the South African government is deflecting the blame away from themselves, not accepting responsibility for their actions. This is another way the deaf are marginalized in this situation; nobody is willing to acknowledge that what happened was wrong, accept the blame and apologize.  

Is marginalization really what is going on here? Why else would a mistake so preventable be made?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Age is More Than a Number

Back in October, I wrote a blog post titled "The Harm in Age Segregation", and in light of a new article I found relating to this topic, I would like to revisit this idea.

I discussed in my previous blog the idea of age segregation beginning with children in schools and also with the elderly in geriatric care centers,  with the focusing on how this is used as a tool by society to find maximum efficiency. Now, I would like to explore more about the repercussions of such a divide. I believe that such process can cause harm to all the people involved, and an article, titled "The Unforeseen Consquences of Age Segregation of Youth",  I found also expresses such danger.

The article states that "[Age segregation] excludes any meaningful exchange of information and ideas between age groups and instead pits them against one another across fabricated social barriers." I though that this phrase captured an interesting viewpoint on the topic. I further broke down the quote to extract its meaning.

The article illustrates a divide when it is stated that age segregation "excludes any meaningful exchange of information and idea between age groups". To me, this quote shows that such divide is placed between differently aged groups of people, which encourages a distance kept between people. The sharing of wisdom, opinions and ideas that have true depth is lost through this kind of isolation. People are shocked when a 30 year old marries  a 70 year old, and I think it's possible that one of the reasons is that we have become so socialized to interject only within our age group, and it is far more infrequent that somebody breaks out of the pattern.

When the article states that age segregation  "pits [people] against one another across fabricated social barriers", it is an interesting view on the relationship between age groups. 
Often in our lives, we hear people refer to  "their generation" as having distinct characteristics unlike any other. 

A relevant question on Yahoo! Answers which shows an example of how some generations identify with certain characteristics or styles. 

This can create an environment of competition instead of collaboration, as some generations are looked down upon. How many times have you heard people say "this generation is doomed", or like phrases. This shows the kind of distrust and disinterest in helping that some generations have for another. I think it's also important to recognize the last part of the quote: "fabricated social barriers". These divides are made of no substance, and can be changed. Therefore, what can be done to break this system?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Behind Black Friday

It's that time of the year again. The kick off of the holiday season is upon us: the infamous Black Friday. This day may seem like chaos to a customer, but before you complain, think about the people who are behind this extravaganza. One company, Amazon, employs an extra 15,000 staff members to help manage the holiday madness.

A BBC reporter, Adam Litter, went undercover to investigate the Amazon warehouse in Swansea, England. He documented his findings in this article. He was assigned the job called a "picker", whose duty it is to collect orders throughout a total storage area of 800,000 square ffet. What the BBC team captured on its hidden camera was insightful for me.

 Some of the details of his job, to begin, was the ten and a half hour night shift that he worked. On the job, these employees are constantly monitored. His scanner handset was his disciplinarian. It counted down the set amount of time he had to retrieve his item, and when he made a mistake, it would beep, and report it to his mangers. It was calculated in the article that the "undercover worker was expected to collect orders every 33 seconds". Mind you, that is covering the 800,000 square foot area. In response to his tiresome night, Litter stated as an employee that "we are machines, we are robots...we don't think for ourselves, maybe they don't trust us to think for ourselves as human beings". This quote shows the treatment of workers, and how they are reduced to objects, no longer seen as people.

In my mind, this situation as a whole situation connected to the issue of sweat shops and exploited laborers, that I have previous studied this month: grueling tasks with a wage  exploitation, specifically in England, which is intersting to me because it is not a third world country like the other countries that are better known for their sweatshops. To me, this information makes me question the labor conditions in the United States, which leads me back to  Black Friday. On such a gigantic shopping day, is there something consumers can do to ensure a fair background of the products they are purchasing? After all, the customer is the one who is creating income for the companies which they buy from, so that seems to generate some power. If consumers decided to boycott a specific retailer on Black Friday, the company might suffer major economic losses. As the consumers, we hold the power to change such circumstances. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The "Two Books in America"

Picture by Humans of New York
Today I noticed an interesting parallel that connected to our class discussion of de facto segregation.

Humans of New York is a Facebook page that posts pictures of people on the streets of New York City, with their quotes as captions. One of these pictures, specifically the quote that corresponds with it, really caught my attention.

In my opinion, the picture itself, two men sitting on a stoop, is not the most fascinating part of this piece, but instead the caption. The quote (pictured below) from one of the men describes a phenomenon that he calls the "two books in America: one for the poor and one for the rich". In other words, I believe that he is commenting on the economical stereotyping in America. As much as one tries to break free from their class, the prejudice persists.

I believe that this man is very aware of the stereotypes that he is facing, and therefore feels the need to give examples of what he is doing in his life that defies that. He lists his accomplishments, such as leaving Alabama, getting a job, and sending four kids to college, all without receiving help from welfare or food stamps. He then identifies a specific stereotype and proves that its not true in his case: "But they say all poor people do is sit around with a quart of beer. Look in this bag next to me. I've got three things in this bag next to me: a Red Bull, a Pepsi, and Draino, because my drain is clogged." To me, this seems like the opposite of confirmation bias; this man uses himself as an example to defy his stereotype. He presents his evidence right on the spot, seemingly desperate to prove the assumptions wrong. He evens finds it necessary to explain why he purchased Draino, and this reaction could possibly be a product of peoples constant suspicious due to his stereotype.

Both of the men pictured above are African-America. It very well could be a coincidence, but I think that this aspect of the photograph evokes an interesting parallel to the de facto segregation before and during the Civil Rights Movements. Also, the fact that he picked cotton is a familiar connection to that era. The man feels discriminated towards due to his economic class, a similar feeling that occurred in the African- Americans who were segregated due to their race. Even in the areas where there was no legal segregation, there were unwritten rules that discriminated against the African-Americans. There is a similar situation today where people of lower economic class are seen differently than those in higher economic classes, who seem to get special privileges, and the benefit of the doubt. As the man in the picture said, they are stuck, and by the last sentence, the man seemed exhausted: "But you see, even if I do everything right, I still have to play by the poor book". Is there anyway to break this seemingly inescapable system?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Free Tilly

     This past weekend, I watched a CNN documentary, Blackfish, about orca whales that live in captivity, specifically environments like Sea World. This film introduced a situation in which a trainer was killed by an orca whale, Tilikum, at Sea World. I agree that was present that because of its miserable life in captivity, the animal had a mental breakdown and snapped. Orcas are not meant to be contained in areas less than 1% of the size of their natural habitat. They are not meant to be torn away from their close-knit family pods. They are not meant to perform once, and then sit idle in a small pen for all other hours of the day.
     What really struck me from the documentary was a segment about the brain of an orca. A very good follow-up summary was done by Discovery News in response to blackfish, that covers the advanced intellectual and social skills in the killer whale. Orcas and dolphins (who are closely related) are the second smartest mammals, behind humans. The strong presence of emotions in an orca makes the claim that their captivity is driving them mentally crazy quite reasonable.
     Although it sounds ideal to just release the animals straight back into nature, in reality, things may get a bit more complicated. After life in captivity, the killer whales may not be ready or willing to go back into the ocean, for they are mentally scarred and very changed, as stated in this Orlando Sentenial article. I think this could be solved by different housing options for the killer whales; a more open living environment that provides a pen or shed, and access to the ocean if it is desired, maybe more effective. This process of returning orcas to the wild is very difficult, so to minimize future efforts, I believe that the removing of orcas from the wild should be banned as soon as possible. The more killer whales that are taken from the wild, the more that will have to be put back.
     There is a petition to release Tilikum, Free Tilly Now, which argues that the captivity of orcas is "simply illogical" and "simply unethical". Hopefully, through this petition, it may be considered to ban the use of orcas for entertainment purposed, and discontinue the captivity of killer whales.

Here are some intersting facts I leave you with:
1. In captivity, many killer whales live only a little over 20 years, while in the wild, they can live around 50-60 years. (Sea World employees told the opposite to the inquirers, as mentioned in Blackfish)
2. There has been no intentional killer whale attacks on humans, in the wild, compared to at least 40 attacks when in captivity.
3. Killer whales use echolocation, but when they use it in captivity, it bounces of the concrete walls which creates confusion and a sound that can deafen them. 
4. "A whale or dolphin living in a pool for it’s entire life would be the equivalent of you living in a phone booth for your entire life." (

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What does "Sweet Freedom" Taste Like?

      These popular Ozark Lollipops are frequently used for fundraising, especially at New Trier. I found an interesting flavor in a friends stock of lollipops: an American themed flavor. Its red white and blue exterior plays off of the colors of American flag. The name of the flavor is "Sweet Freedom". My initial thought was how stupid the name was; what does "Sweet Freedom" taste like? I then realized there might be another motivation behind this lollipop flavor.
      I believe that this American theme is used by companies to exploit the patriotism of Americans. Americans seem to be known for their national pride, and by using this strong, common feeling of nationalism, companies can better advertise and sell their product.
     This concept is similar to the printing of the American flag on clothing or nearly any other item. The American flag is a major source of pride in America, therefore, this may draw in some additional consumers due to their patriotism. The name of the flavor references an underlying American theme of freedom. This lollipop seems to remind us of how "sweet" life is in America, and makes consumers feel happy about their country. By including these American themes in their product, consumers may feel pressured to buy the lollipop to prove, either to themselves or others, that they are patriotic and want to support their country. I know I gave the lollipop a second thought because America is my home country, and I felt somewhat obliged to represent my country in buying the lollipop.
     Would you buy this lollipop? What is your opinion about this marketing strategy?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oversimplified: Inaccuracies in Personality Tests

In one of my classes, I was required to take a personality test, which is a dreaded task in my mind. To me, personality tests do not accurately asses the individual.

One fault in these tests is that the person taking the test may tend to idealize themselves, and therefore provide inaccurate answers. One may try to find the "right" answer, the answer that would make them seem like a better person, perhaps. The fact that some personality tests are multiple choice just sets up the participant for a struggle. For me, the given answer options were not satisfying, and I felt as though I fell in between two different choices. It is difficult enough to admit to your faults at all, but when you fault is given at an extreme as an answer option, it is unlikely that you may choose it.

Another source of error is the interpretation within the question. The prompt can be read and interpreted in different ways for different people, and they might answer the question in a manner that was not intented.

Lastly, I find these types of test very predictable. It is very easy to read what the question is trying to determine, therefore making it easier to sway the results in whatever direction you choose.

What is the point of personality tests? It's just an instrument to oversimplify peoples complexities. I believe that there is no accurate way to categorize individuals, which automatically deems all personality tests inaccurate. If you have time, I recommend you take this personality test, the Keirsey Test, and see how accurate your results are. It only takes about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Harm in Age Segregation

       Upon a visit to a geriatric center, my hospital guide brought up the interesting and controversial topic of age segregation. She told us how it was difficult for the older patients to stay active and healthy in an environment of other elderly people. The guide discussed how beneficial it is for the elderly to have exposure to younger people, for they keep the elderly mentally stimulated. Younger people generally lead active lifestyles and this rubs off on the elderly. Along with new generations of children comes new technology, and these kind of changes can be intimidating, but learning new things and adapting is actually one of the best things an older person can do for their health. Knowing the importance of mixing ages, then why is age segregation found in many aspects of American life?
I believe that the very American theme of finding maximum efficient is the motivation behind separating age groups in our society. Schools are separated by age, not necessarily learning ability. I think that this is because it is seen as most efficient to start with a young group of children and teach them all the same thing together and continue on from grade to grade teaching the same material to the masses of children. This tends to lead children to befriending other children of the same age, and therefore limiting their adult exposure to parents and teachers. In geriatric care or nursing homes, it is seen as most efficient to group all the elderly in one area, for they may have similar health problems. Therefore treatment can be given all in one place to the masses of the elderly, which increases efficiency.
Through this process of finding efficiency, the individual is categorized by age, placed into a mass of others in that category, and that group is then treated as one. This search for efficiency is stripping people of their individuality. In the process, the complexity of a human being is reduced to one number, all else ignored. Although this system is beneficial for the organizers of society, it can be stifling for the individual.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Did Timothy Treadwell Die Happy?:

Grizzly Man, a documentary by Werner Herzog, follows the life of Timothy Treadwell, a man passionate about his dare routs task of protect the grizzly bears of the  Katmai National Park in Alaska. The film sparks questions about Treadwells inner thoughts, as he is presented as a very complex and unique character. In an attempt to understand Treadwells thoughts and motivations, I traced his life story (all of it that was shown in the film) and through my personal interpretation, formed a narrative arc.

     Timothy begins just above average, doing well in life but not excelling. It increases when he gets a scholarship to college for swimming, but then plummets after he hurts his back and loses his scholarship. After moving to California in hopes of a new start, he doesn't get the job he wanted, and as stated in the interview with his parents, Timothy spiraled down from there. His rock bottom, in my opinion, might have been his near death drug overdose. Timothy became happier as he started to work with animals. He claims that he had no life before the animals, and that they gave him his life. Timothy went from a serious alcoholic to completely giving up drinking, just so h could better protect the bears that he so dearly loved. His life then sloped upwards as he spent more and more time with the bears. Eventually, Timothy was recognized as some sort of celebrity adventure man, created a steeper increase to happiness. Then, upon his death, the graph could branch off many different ways.

     After all he had done for these animals, was Timothy angry at the bear who turned on him? Did he feel any regret? Was Timothy ready to die? Was Timothy hoping that his death would finally bring the proper recognition for his cause?

     I chose to continue the arc past Timothy's death, as if he was still alive, approving of disapproving of what was going on. I believe it would have greatly upset Timothy that the bear who killed him was shot. The killing of the bear is everything that Timothy worked his whole life to prevent. Is this where his narrative arc ends? In my opinion, it continues on, along with Timothy's legacy. An interview with one of Timothy's lose friends reveals that he thought that his own death would be the most effective way to spread his message. Although opinions vary, Timothy is generally remembered for his courageous and dangerous dedication to these animals which he adored, which was Timothy's goal in life. He seemed pleased with the 13 years of protection he provided, and he continued to do what he loved, which brings happiness. Therefore, I believe that Timothy Treadwell died happy, and his death is ultimately positive.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"In God We Trust": Do we all?

As I opened my wallet this morning to get some lunch money, I noticed something special about one of the five dollar bills. Upon further examination, I saw neat red lines of script written on the back of the bill. The message was religious , highlighting the presence of another official religious message on the bill. "IN GOD WE TRUST" is printed officially on all currency, and although the individual who wrote on this bill agrees "100%", this five dollar bill made me realize that not everyone in this country would feel the same.
I am a practicing Christian, so the phrase printed on the bill was never a problem for me. Neither was the Pledge of Allegiance, which states that America is "one nation under God", yet, America is truly far from a nation practicing one single religion. America prides its self upon its many forms of freedoms, religious freedom being one of them. Because of this, America is a very  diverse country, with its citizens and residents practicing many different religions, or none at all. This is exactly what some people come to America for: acting upon ones belief without consequence.

When these religious phrases are found throughout American culture, permanently plastered on symbols of the USA, it takes away some of the freedoms of the Americans who disagree, and in my opinion, this restriction is unfair. The people of America shouldn't have to be represented as something that they are not.

It could be assumed from the writing in the top right corner that the bill at some point was in Houston, Texas, and it ended up in my wallet in Chicago, Illinois. This could mean that this bill has been passed along for some while with the writing on it. In my opinion, I think that this shows that people have accepted a set religion in America, for this bill continued to be distributed. This message written on the bill could be viewed as to the country in the form of defacing currency as a sacred object of the nation. I wonder if somebody had written a note of disagreement, what would be the reaction? Is this fair?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11: A Brighter Side to the Story

"A hero is a man who does what he can" - Romain Rolland

This quote was is used in the short film documentary, Boatlift, an Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience, that I watched this morning, in honor of the anniversary of 9/11 (video above). To me, this phrase simplifies the day of September 11th, 2001, for Americans found anyway they possibly could help others during this devastating disaster.

Today began as I arrived at school this morning subdued and saddened as a result of the news coverage of 9/11 I had watched earlier that day. I did not expect the uplifting twist of the same event which would be shown to me in advisory. This documentary, Boatlift, an Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience, focused on the honorable actions of the boat captains who came together and risked their lives to help evacuate lower Manhattan after the attack on the Twin Towers. This struck me as such a beautiful story of heroism that not only exposes a positive outcome of the tremendous tragedy, but also illustrates ideal American values.

 The civilians trapped on the lower end of Manhattan were left with no escape to safety other than leaving by boat. Seeing such a need, many ships in the harbor came to aid in evacuation. Upon the signal from the Coast Guard, large fleets of boats rushed to provide their services. "If it floated and it could get there, it got there", said one captain, interviewed during the film, on the amazing act of teamwork and courage. In a time of need, Americans proved that they could pull themselves together, putting their own worries aside in order to protect their nation and their fellow citizens. Americans show such pride towards their country, and September 11th, 2001 was an example of American citizens joining together for the greater good of the country, which in my mind, is part of the idealistic "American Dream".

The boat evacuation was also a humbling experience for some, for it created all people equal in that moment of terror. One persons wealth couldn't buy them out of that situation. Americans acted with confidence and trust in each other and a pride for the strong moral values of their country. This is the "American Dream" that sometimes is not the reality in our world today. On this day, the citizens of the United States were all brought into the same damaged position, and rose above it all to help together, which is another part of the "American Dream" of equality. Captain of the Amberjack V, Vincent Ardolino, who was involved in the evacuation, commented on the situation, stating, "[We had] housewives...we had executives, and the thing that was the best, everyone helped everyone."

Although an epic tragedy, 9/11 was an event that to this day represents the power of American citizens to act together in times of crisis; a story that can be told with pride, and fulfilling multiple aspects of the "American Dream".