Distant and Distracted

I recently sat back to reflect on my semester and decided it really resembles a big Thanksgiving plate. Much like how my plate is filled to the brim with way too many delicious foods, my schedule is packed. It is packed with fun, and joyous activities that I am passionate about. However, just like how I have a bit of a stomach ache after eating too much food, I’m left feeling weak after a busy schedule. Just because something is good, doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you.

 

It is so easy to accept the busy culture that we live in, crippling under the pressure to perform and commit to so many areas of life. While the commitments we make are ones we initially enjoy, they can start feeling like tasks as our plates become full. Society screams that a busy life is the best life. It claims that busyness is superior, and it suddenly becomes one giant balancing act.  In college, planners are “in.” It’s fun to have a pretty, color coordinated planner that is filled with cute tape and neat little boxes. But when every minute is planned, sitting in its neat box, there is no room to breathe and live life to the fullest.

 

Sometimes we hide behind these distractions, flying through life without examining what is around us, or even what is in our own heads. I think that we use busyness as an excuse to ignore injustices, taking the easy way out and claiming that we just don’t have time. It is easier to stick to the coordinated planner and ignore our swirling thoughts, but that is not where I think we receive true fulfillment and joy. As humans we were created to build relationships and take time to experience the world around us. We were created to solve problems and think critically about our role in those issues we feel called to. However, we can’t work to build relationships and end injustices until we pour time into it.

 

Investment in people takes time and intentionality, and this is practically impossible when we are booked with commitments constantly. Krista Tippet wisely states that the “unexamined life is not worth living.” I think it’s time to ditch the busyness fad and reclaim our priorities. While taking time to be still in a world that thrives on constant chaos is counterintuitive, it can boost our emotional, spiritual, and mental health.

 

-Megan Essex

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Understanding the “why” in Genocide

Though I’ve studied topics such as domestic violence and human trafficking, I wanted to study the topic of genocide in depth, not only to understand how I can help, what victims face during and after the genocide, but also the why behind the genocide. For me, as tough as all three subjects are emotionally, I found it easier to understand the reasons for which people might perpetrate human trafficking or be abusers in a violent relationship. For the former, it’s a monetary drive—there’s a demand for free labor and people are willing to pay for it. Thus, traffickers can profit by kidnapping, coercing, and/or killing victims. In the latter, it is sometimes a power coefficient, in which the abuser needs to feel powerful. It may also be a religious or financial reason. However, I could not, and still have trouble wrapping my head around the reasons for which people commit genocide. Further, I can’t understand how they can live after committing such acts, or how they can avoid taking responsibility for their actions, instead blaming some other factor.

This week, we were assigned a reading on psychological perspectives, which explains certain elements that can fuel genocide. It also explains how people can shift their actions to external forces by outlining two experiments that were conducted in the United States—the Stanford prison experiment and Milgram’s authority and obedience experiment. These experiments are shocking in the fact that they clearly show how people can take their power for granted, but also how people can push the blame for their actions onto someone else. In the Milgram experiment, participants were more likely to administer high doses of shocks if the authoritative figure were present and telling them what to do. In some respects, I can understand this with regard to genocide. For one thing, I can see how someone being forced to kill would do so in the presence of the authority figure. Understanding this, I can kind of see where they would be inclined to say that they were not at fault for committing a crime because the authority figure told them to.

However, the Stanford prison experiment helped me better understand how power can get into the heads of people. A key component of genocide is that the people being killed off are first made to seem inferior and alienated. This alienation in turn leads to the superior group feeling that they have more power. Like the “prison guards” in the Stanford experiment, the superior group within the context of genocide sees it as their duty to put the inferior group in their place. As a result of the power they were given, they assume that it is their duty to keep the masses down. Thus, when asked why they were so cruel—killing, pillaging, etc—they can answer that they had to in order to protect the order of things, or that their power allowed them to.

In looking at these experiments, I can kind of understand why people commit genocide and how they can shift the blame of their actions onto an external person or power. Still, I think that this topic is, and will continue to be hard for me to understand because there is no clear “why” behind the people’s actions. That said, I found this reading extremely helpful in at least allowing me to gain some understanding of what people were thinking.

-J and V

Tell me about this so called “haal” of yours

The alarm screams at a typical 7:30am and I grudgingly roll over to turn it off. Before I even sit up in bed, I make a mental checklist of the things on my to-do list. Shower, breakfast, class, lunch, work, staff meeting, grocery shop, dinner, homework, call mom, more homework, and maybe if I’m lucky, get some time to breath.

The sad thing is, this is a slow day for me- actually, for most of us.

When we do have a minute of free time to socialize, we more often than not get asked the routine “how are you?” Our response? “I’m well. You?” Even when we really are not at all “well.” In our culture, this interaction has become a common curtesy, few people TRULY care- and so one’s response is a common curtesy- not wanting to burden others with our struggles.

What if we, as a community, stopped settling for that? What if we strived for REAL human connection? What if we simply CARED?

Author Krista Tippett argues that our busyness has become a disease. She claims that it is “spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps up our ability to be fully present with those we love most and keeps us from forming the kind of community we desperately crave.”

Luckily for us, we have built a culture that is relentless in ridding disease as soon as it makes itself known. We have the power to RID ourselves of this destructive disease or rather “dis-ease,” as Tippert puts it.

Seeing as though this reading came from a course about genocide, there must be a connection. Perhaps burdening ourselves with constant busyness and neglecting time for real relationships, we are becoming desensitized to the world around us. Perhaps if we took the time to listen to how someone really is, our hearts would break for other’s stories. Perhaps if we simply cared enough to care, we could work to prevent a little brokenness in our world.

At the end of the reading, Tippert writes about the custom of asking “how is your haal (heart)?” in Muslim cultures. Not how is your to-do list this week, or how is your work load, how is your HEART? How is the organ that is vital to your survival? How is the part of you that should break for injustice and yearn for relationships?

Speaking for myself, I could use a little heart-to-heart every now and then; I think we all could.

-KM

 

 

 

Power of the Media

Fake news has been a term that has been recently circulating in politics and every day life. “Oh don’t believe that, that’s fake news,” my friend says to me. But what exactly is fake news? According to Leonhardt and Stuart, “fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online media.” Even though president Trump claims that he coined the term fake news, the term and idea has been relevant long before his administration.

During the Rwanda genocide, newspapers and radio stations played a crucial role in determining the fate of the country. These sources were controlled by the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, to gradually dehumanize the minority group, the Tutsis.  Along with manipulated information that were transmitted to a majority of the population, the Hutu’s fear of losing their recently gained political power, fear of being captured and enslaved by the Tutsis, and the assassination of the Hutu president brought about pure hatred and the desire to exterminate the entire Tutsi population.

But how exactly did this start? Genocide is not a phenomena that occurs over one night. The deliberate killings of a particular group of people takes dehumanization, organization, and media sources that affirm that the elimination of that particular group will desensitize and purify the society as a whole. The radio station, RTML played up-to-date music and developed a strategy in which ‘celebrities’ casually spoke on talk shows while reasserting negative rhetoric towards the Tutis.

I am not saying that the media caused the genocide, but more so, it added more fuel to the fire.

While the media and journalism is ‘supposed’ to shed some truth on news and events, as we can see with Rwanda, it was used to ignite repressed emotions and turn it into the annihilation of over a million Tutsis and Hutus.

-P.S.

Creating Connections

In order to fully comprehend how and why genocide happens, it’s important to link other fields of research and create connections between valuable experiments, research, and theories. One of the most important fields that helps us understand about genocide? Psychology. 

Psychology is a field that is diverse, intense, and applicable to every individual on this earth. It is the study of the human mind and it’s functions. A huge focus of the subject is how the human mind affects behaviors in specific contexts. Instead of focusing this blog on the brain functions and types of common behaviors, the focus will be on psychological experiments that emphasize the victim/perpetrator relationship with underlying tones of power and control. Both the Milgram and Zimbardo Experiments from the book, “Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction” in the 10th chapter, Psychological Perspectives, written by Adam Jones, will be explored.

 

The Milgram Experiments

Created and conducted by Stanley Milgram beginning in the early 1960s, this experiment is one of the most famous psychological studies. This involved a series of mild-mannered and agreeable middle-aged men who were placed on one side of a wall along with a designated subject on the other. The subject was in charge of giving shocks of increasing voltage to the man (ranged from 15 to 450 volts). The subject received a shock of 45 volts to see the power they were administering. The subject asked questions to the man and incorrect answers by the man were followed by shocks from an authority figure. As the volts increased, the man was banging in protest and screaming, but the shocks continued. Out of the 40 subjects, 26 continued to the end and obeyed all orders of the authority figure until the end.

So what happened?

Many of the subjects were told they had no choice, avoided the consequences of their actions by turning their heads in the opposite direction, and displaying tension and stress. Sound familiar?

These ordinary people were performing acts that caused pain to another innocent individual because an authority figure told them to. Even when they knew they were caused tremendous pain, very few people had the resources and courage to resist authority. This is extremely similar to how people in power convince individuals to become perpetrators in genocides. The process of rationalization by authority figures allows for inhumane and harmful behavior to be present.

 

The Zimbardo Experiments

In an psychology experiment conducted by a Stanford University team under Phillip Zimbardo in 1971, volunteers were divided into a random selection of prisoners and prison guards. Both sides were given symbolic trappings of their position (shaven heads for prisoners, dark sunglasses for guards). Each side could not address the other by name. It began by the guards humiliating the prisoners and stripping them of their dignity. The differentiation of power took control, and the guards treated the prisoners without humanity. They forced them to defecate in buckets, clean toilets with their hands, and forced them to sing chant songs. The longer the experiment went on, the more comfortable the guards felt treating the prisoners in a non-humane manner.

So what happened?

Within the study, three different types of guard behavior were apparent: the cruel and dominating guard, the tough but fair guard, and the good guards. The study only lasted a few days because it had to end early due to health and psychological concerns, but it would have been important to see how many of the good guards and fair but tough guards would have held out throughout the entire experiment.

The boys were given intense power over someone who was powerless, and they were made to seem as inhumane through humiliating acts.

So what do these tell us? These experiments that focus on human psychology and behavior in the form of victim/perpetrator and power/powerless explain how easily people can be influenced by authoritative figures. It demonstrates how people in power versus those with less power are more likely to see them in a hierarchy of humanity; those with no power are not seen as human.

It’s extremely important to continue studying and researching influential psychological experiments such as these to better understand genocide and prevent inhumane treatment from occurring. We must establish and create connections with different fields to better comprehend what we humans are capable of able to prevent.

-Kristin Taylor

 

Mindless

I remember walking into 3rd grade and receiving a planner on my first day of class.  Our teacher explained how this would help me remember the things I had to for homework and I had to get my parents to sign it, showing that we I was using it.  What my teacher didn’t tell me is that I’d be using for most likely the rest of my life.  Planners, calendars, reminder apps, alarms.  All of these things to help me remember all the things I have to do while simultaneously reminding me how little time I have to do them all.

In the age of technology and fast paced lifestyles, we often feel overwhelmed with everything we have to do.  Society pushes us to move on to the next thing quickly and productivity is equated with success.  On my college campus, no one is moving slowly.  We are always striving for the next thing: the next test, the next social event, the next class, and so on.  Even a short break is often spent scrolling on social media which makes it feel like no time has passed at all.  Which then shows the need to always be connected.

The article, The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi, writes about this business that so many experience in Western Culture.  He writes, “For some of us, the “privileged ones,” the lines between work and home have become blurred.  We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.”

This ongoing mental checklist may be pushing us forward as a society, but where is it leading us?  Is doing more actually DOING more?  To me, this raises questions about our emotional, mental, and spiritual health.  Often when I am asked how I’m doing, I realize that I haven’t simply stopped for a moment to process my feelings and decisions.  In some ways, I’ll use my business as a crutch so I don’t have to think about hard things I’m going through or difficult truths that make me uncomfortable.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.

But how does this relate to a course that seeks to learn about genocide and advocacy for refugees?  The answer lies in the mindlessness in the ways that we often wander through our days.  If we as a society cannot process our own emotional well being how are we supposed to feel for others?  If I cannot understand my own hurt and brokenness, how can I understand that of another person, whether they are millions of miles away or my own neighbor?  Often my generation is called out for being selfish in only caring about ourselves.  I don’t think it’s that though.  The problem isn’t that we are thinking only of ourselves, it’s that we aren’t thinking at all.  

Whether we are consciously running away from our thoughts or not, it’s important (and even necessary) to spend intentional, quality time with yourself and reflect.  This can be done through journaling, talking out loud, or whatever way feels best to you.  But if we as a society want to fight against ignorance, indifference, and even the stereotype of selfishness, we first have to take a look inward before trying to change the minds of others.

So set an hour aside out of your “busy” schedule, even if you have to write it down in your planner.

-Morgan Phillips

Imagine

You and your parents are having casserole on a Tuesday evening when you hear three loud knocks. Your father puts down his fork, dabs his mouth, and then heads to answer the door. You sneak a peak from the window and witness three men dressed in black uniforms and carrying badges. Without warning they haul your father from inside the home and put handcuffs on him. You and your mom rush to help him but they disappear into the night leaving you without an explanation. You panic frantically, asking questions your mom can’t find the answers to. She rushes back to the kitchen to call the local authorities. A policeman picks up the phone and says indifferently that he is unable to help and they are in fact coming for you next.

We in the West harbor a naive belief that a situation like this would never happen to us, but so many others have had that same belief before. In one moment you are eating dinner with your family and the next, the authorities are at your door dragging your father out from his own home. You ask yourself, “how did this happen? What did he do wrong?”. Tears pour down your melanin-infused cheek and onto your lap. You have shed tears before, but never like this. You have cried when people assumed you as someone who is dirty, lazy, or uneducated, all because because of the color of your skin. You have cried when they called you the n-word. You have cried when some even threatened to take your life. You are crying now because they took a piece of you away, leaving you utterly helpless, and feeling as although you have no one to turned to. But then you realized that the signs were all there… you just did not acknowledge them in time.

Genocide starts with these steps: Classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination, and lastly, denial. You might have not known that you are in the midst of a genocide–the extermination and deliberate killings of a particular group of people–but it has happened. You are being targeted for the color of your skin and you wonder to yourself, “how is this fair?”.

Nothing in the world is fair. Fair is what they describe the color of the perpetrator’s skin.

P.S.