Frameworks: Science and Perceived Truth

What is truth? Is there such a thing as absolute truth or is our whole reality a set of perceived truths packaged by each individual? If you have never entertained this question for yourself, please stop reading this and spend some time teasing it out. It is a question thick with potential intricacy or incredible simplicity.

In the past few years, I’ve been contemplating this in great detail. As a student of science, I have been taught for so very long to trust and use the scientific method and process as an accurate framework through which to view happenings on our planet. We quantify, measure, and name the world around us and, through this, create a lens to view the world. It wasn’t until very recently that I heard instructors and classmates begin to mention the word ‘belief’ when discussing science. It is most often presented

image from zdnet.com

image from zdnet.com

as fact instead of a belief system. We are told that science doesn’t claim to be proof of anything or claim absolute truths but it is most definitely treated as though it does by society. Therefore, it holds incredible power. Unlike many other belief systems, the scientific community prides itself in the questioning of results and methodologies making it seem as though we are entirely self-critical. However, we do not question the principles that these methodologies and ideas behind THE scientific method or the idea that quantification is the most accurate way to represent all observable phenomena in our world.

Science is one of the frameworks to view the world that I almost entirely subscribe to, but it cannot be taken as absolute truth. The way I view this world may be filled with fancy numbers and techniques and Latin names, but it is in no way more or less valid than any other way of viewing our world. Our problems arise when we forget to respect each other or to try to understand the places other people are coming from.
Please share your thoughts on science, belief systems, or truth with us!

-Annalise

Event Recap: Hop on a ride to MarketSquare

Clark’s Entrepreneurship Club (CEC) is known to do really cool things. However, last Thursday they outdid their own standards. CEC’s very own MarketSquare was a makeshift market in the Grind where Clarkies came together to sell their own products and services.

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While doing Henna tattoos to the many customers that came by, I could feel the laid-back chilled vibe from all the cool things people around me were doing. There were Clarkies who sold macaroons, others who had just opened up a mini nail salon and this one Clarkie even brought down his clothing line. During those brief moments when I looked up from my own henna art service, I could see all the diversity that surrounded me. AND IT FELT AMAZING!

Most of us came there with our entrepreneurial spirit but we had no idea how successful it really was going to be. I personally just wanted to showcase my culture and food—making money was a secondary agenda I hadn’t given much thought to. But to my surprise, the experience was quite empowering and inspiring. Not only did I get to share my Bengali culture with so many new people, I also got to make a high profit through my products and services.

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All around me I could see entrepreneurs-in-the-making. Some of us even shared our contact information so potential customers could contact us outside MarketSquare. And almost all the products and services were such high-quality; customer loyalty wasn’t going to be far off.

It was truly humbling to see so many talented Clarkies come together and showcase what they were passionate about. And all I could think of the entire time was “Why doesn’t this happen more often?” Hats off to CEC for pulling off such a great event—an experience that will stay with me throughout my time at Clark. I personally hope this can happen more than just once a year and it expands so that Clark and Worcester residents can come be a part of all the cool things Clarkies are doing. Kudos to Clark Entrepreneurs and a huge shout out to Clark Entrepreneurship Club for giving us this incredible opportunity.

-Suaida Firoze

*Photos by Duong Le

Why I believe in Speak Out! Oppression on Campus

I’m going to cut to the chase here. Oppression – in any scale, shape, or form – is a daily reality in any part of this world. Human beings have never fully stumbled upon the miracle of coexisting with differences, and things won’t change overnight. I grew up in Sri Lanka, a culture that was impregnated with misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, the works. I am not stranger to discrimination, and I have learned to make my peace with the knowledge that things will not change radically during my lifetime. But, that does not mean that I stop trying. Nor does it mean that I can’t appreciate the good in my culture. All of these thoughts, feelings, and opinions apply to my relationship with Clark.

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I am exceedingly proud to call myself a Clarkie. Much of that pride stems from being part of a community that inspires one to acknowledge the deep divides that cleave our society into a million tiny shards, and to engage in dialogue and discourse in an attempt to expand our own understanding, acknowledge our inherent biases, and strive to create some change in the world. I feel like Clark has given me the opportunity to expand my social consciousness beyond any limits that I would have conceived.

However, this is not to say that Clark is perfect. This institution is a human construct and it is imbued with human flaws. Moreover, as the creation of many individuals, it has failings that transcend the individual level and possesses the ability to affect entire communities. Nonetheless, as an institution that constantly engages in the rhetoric of being committed to social change and equity and aspires to shape global citizens, Clark University has made a pledge to acknowledge and address its flaws.

When I conceived the idea of organizing a campaign to allow students to produce anonymous testimonies of their own experiences, I hoped to do just that. This institution and its students deserve to hear the voices of those who have experienced discrimination of any form. Students are the greatest assets of this institution, and we make Clark’s vision of an engaged, explorative, and diverse intellectual community a reality. It is of utmost importance to affirm what experiences students may have, due to the human failings that are understandably, but not justifiably, embedded in an institution. The institution itself deserves to hear directly from the students, to know the problems that afflict us, to acknowledge this reality, and take steps to address it. While institutional mechanisms already exist to do this very thing, here’s why I think a campaign of this nature is required.

First, there is an awe-inspiring power in numbers and anonymity. What students may not feel comfortable in sharing with the institution directly and individually, they may wish to share in an anonymous setting while experiencing a sense of solidarity with others with similar experiences. Students are free to challenge by choice and are made aware of the implications and potential risks of participating in the project. Furthermore, they are free to withdraw their submissions at any point.

Second, a major percentage of our community is blissfully unaware of the forms of discrimination that prevail on campus. Many of us truly believe that the institutional values we hear of so often are a living reality and, due to our own lived experiences and socialization processes, are uninformed of the issues that exist within our midst. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that the Clark community is deeply and dramatically prejudiced – a queer, international student of color such as myself would not be here and writing this article if that were the case. However, any form of discrimination, even micro-aggressions, inflicts a very real pain. Who are we to say that some forms of pain are more valid than others? Some of you may think that this campaign targets faculty and staff, but the reality is that students are as capable, if not more so, of perpetuating discrimination as anyone else. The Clark community requires a wake-up call, and this campaign strives to be part of the solution.

Lastly, this campaign is not intended to be a witch-hunt. It is not our intention to name, shame and indict those complicit in discrimination, but rather to realize what structural weaknesses must be stopped up to educate all of us on our own biases and blind spots so that fewer people are afflicted by these grave issues. Every single one of us – even those of minority identities – are complicit in perpetuating discrimination, unwittingly and indirectly; and healing and learning cannot occur in a space of blaming and shaming. It is only through acknowledgment, acceptance of our biases, and the commitment to address our perceptual differences that we can strive towards a truly inclusive society.

I have heard many things about this campaign since word of it first started to spread, and it saddens me that those who critique it have not sought to affirm the fundamental reason for its existence – to give voice to those who have not dared to speak before, or whose voice got lost in the tumult of daily existence. We would gladly accept any constructive criticism that was provided to us. I beg of all of you who read this to take this plea seriously. Consider what we leave with when we leave this institution – a piece of paper and future success that crumbles into dust as we die and rejoin the earth. But the impact we have on human lives? That endures the passage of time, living on in the hearts and minds of our collective consciousness. Our first priority has been and should be the welfare of the human lives that inhabit this institution, and if there is any way to recognize and safeguard the humanity of all, then I believe we should be unafraid to take that step.

-Themal

Loud Oceans

When you think of the ocean what do you imagine? If you imagine a place of serenity and pristine beauty teaming with invariable diversity you would not be alone as our society’s prevailing view is that the ocean is paradise and a plentiful resource. Unfortunately, humans have proved to be unimaginably powerful and have changed the life of ocean dwellers in ways that you may not even have considered.

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Regardless of how far you live from the coast, every American intimately relies on the ocean in everyday life. Most obviously, some of the food we eat comes from our world’s oceans, but we also rely on it for ingredients in many consumer goods. Most of our clothing arrives here via shipping channels that cover a large amount of area of the world’s oceans, which creates enormous sound pollution. Large ships most often create sound in the same frequency as many baleen whale species as well as some species of seals and lions. This reduces the distance they communicate with each other and, in some situations, can make it nearly impossible for whales to find each other. Imagine trying to talk to your family while having a recording playing nonsense talking noises over you at all times. It would most definitely add a layer of stress to your everyday life.

Luckily, there are some ways we can help this problem. Reducing boat traffic would be ideal, but that is unlikely to happen as our global economy continues to grow. Newer, more hydrodynamic boats that produce less noise pollution are beginning to become more commonplace and replace the old ones. But it will be a long time, if ever, before whales can return the serenity of uninterrupted communication that they once had.

-Annalise

Event Recap: The things that matter…religion?

students gather to have tea  and talk about religion and spirituality in a safe space

students gather to have tea and talk about religion and spirituality in a safe space

Last Wednesday, April 1st, ISSO and SASA came together to host the one-of-a-kind conversation caféThe things that matter…religion?’ A lot of us who went to the event did not know exactly what to expect out of it. When we planned it, our main agenda was to create a space where Clarkies could come together and talk about religion and spirituality.

DSC_5236In reality, when we left the event it felt like so much more than just religion or spirituality. We got an opportunity to really look into who we were as individuals. I personally found it very surprising how, even for those of us that are not religious, it was still such a big part of our lives.

The conversation was centered on questions such as “What does being spiritual or religious mean to you?” “Do religion and spirituality go hand in hand?” and “How has Clark shaped our religious view and beliefs?” Many shared their connection with God and instances where they felt truly connected to their higher power while others talked about challenging religious norms and finding their inner strength and spirituality through rebellion.

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From childhood myths to adult epiphanies, many of us used this space to reflect on how far we’ve come and grown. Has Clark shaped our views? Has college changed our beliefs? Personally, for me, college has changed me more than I can ever realize. While I have learned to be more open-minded I have also accepted that the creation of the entire world can’t just be a series of coincidences at the same time. It is a constant rush of mixed feelings. My time at college has pushed me to challenge norms and accept that I can only change so much at the same time. For many at our conversation café, college had not changed their values or opinions. Many said they felt more religious or not more religious simply because they were now older and more mature.

So, does religion matter? Yes it does, whether you believe in a specific religion or not—at least it does to the most of us that were at the event. It’s funny how we could be from different parts of the world, raised in absolutely different environments with varied beliefs and values, yet when we seem to share a similar opinion—none of those differences matter. The people that matter, and those minute moments where we are all in awe by the little differences each of us make to shape our beliefs, are what make up our very own list of the ‘Things that matter….’

-Learning new things every day,
          Suaida Firoze 

Keep your eye out for more great conversation cafe's on campus and join us next time!

Keep your eye out for more great conversation cafe’s on campus and join us next time!

*Photos by Demi Senturk

The tragic day I discovered the Men’s Rights Movement

2014-02-16-mra-radical-notion-that-men-deserve-respectI’ve been meaning to write on a topic that I’ve had strong feelings about for some time, but I never quite found the time until now. In line with International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I thought it would be fitting to talk about an article I read concerning the Men’s Rights Movement and its radical figurehead Paul Elam, and just how regressive this phenomenon is. Granted, the article was published in GQ magazine, not a paragon of serious journalism by any stretch, but its contents enraged me enough to warrant this blog post. I must preface what is to follow by saying that I acknowledge the harms that toxic masculinity imposes upon men, and this article does not attempt to trivialize what challenges men experience due to hypermasculinity. However, the Men’s Rights Movement does not even remotely resemble an effective solution to such issues.

Paul Elam (whose last name is ‘male’ spelled backwards) believes that our society is feminized and misandrist. Yes, you read that right. I try my very best not to question his sanity as I believe in hearing out an argument before responding to it. I’m sorry, Paul Elam, it sucks how statistics like 1 in 3 women experiencing violence globally, Hispanic/Latina women earning 54% of what white men earned, and state legislatures having introduced 468 restrictions on women’s bodies and zero for men, seem to be preventing me from joining you for a beer and a hearty session of feminist-bashing. So don’t hold your breath.

Men’s rights activists like Paul believe that feminism has overturned the natural order of the world and poisoned the minds of human beings. “Women gone insane with the power of the pussy pass” is what Elam identifies as the reason for the good work he does, in an essay called “When Is It OK to Punch Your Wife?”. I beg you, my reader, to humor me as I explore some of the ideas that this Good Samaritan has deigned to enlighten us with. First, Elam proposes to make October “Bash a Violent Bitch Month,” in which men should take the women who abuse them “by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.” Thank you Mr. Elam for setting such high standards for all of humanity. Elam’s website, ‘A Voice for Men’, serves as the center of the manosphere, which refers to a cyber-network of men allied in support of the patriarchy. Who exactly inhabits this dimension, you may ask? Allow me to tell you.

The term was heavily featured in reference to Elliott Rodgers who, in May 23, 2014, murdered six people in California in revenge for the world’s failure to grant him the beautiful girlfriend he felt he deserved. Following the publicity this incident provided Elam’s site, he organized the first International Conference on Men’s Issues. After being shunted from their first venue due to an outcry from the public (those feminists are worse than the Illuminati, I tell you) the members convened to discuss their victim status experiences with the deeply entrenched, time worn culture of misandry. One participant said that he was awakened to the fearsome, omnipotent control that women have on society when he bluntly propositioned a co-worker at the office, expecting a forthright attitude to be the best way to gain consent, but was accused of sexual harassment. My sympathies, of course, lie with this poor, misunderstood individual. Gaining consent is important (I am genuinely glad that he understands this) and it’s tough to navigate in a world which subscribes to standards of decency and respect for other human beings, and requires us to attend to social cues to understand if another human being may welcome our advances. But at least he’s in good company among people like ideologue Gunther Schadow, who has made it his purpose to denounce feminist infiltration of abuse research and demonstrate to the world how women are more violent in relationships than men, at a ratio of 2:1. Activists like Albert Calabrese fervently believe the age of consent should be 12 years old (isn’t it just so annoying when society tries to protect children? I mean they just transitioned out of Disney movies and primary teeth, so they’re practically adults right?). And then you have people like ‘Factory’ (the name he assumes in the men’s rights world) who claims to be a victim of emotional abuse—violence which peaked at him lying down the floor curled up in a fetal position while his ex-wife hovered threateningly over him brandishing a butcher knife. She denies all of this. If his account is true, then I do feel compassion for his case. However, it must be understood that women are not socialized to be violent and abusive and that in this particular case, his ex-wife’s gender had nothing to do with her behavior. A terrible example of humanity could be male, female or of any other gender, and the latter would be inconsequential. One cannot take a terrible human being and generalize their flaws to an entire demographic. If women were inherently abusive, then methinks Elam’s proposal to batter them would face a few problems.

As ridiculous as all of this sounds there is a very real danger in the regressive, sexist drivel that the likes of Paul Elam spout. In 2014, his site had approximately 9 million visitors. And satellite sites abound, such as the all too delightful Return of Kings (which publishes even more delightful articles such as ‘Stop Being Such A Fucking Faggot’, A Simple Tweak To Help You Crush Women And Life, and even cosmopolitan pieces such as Bang Ukraine: How to Sleep with Ukrainian Women in Ukraine). It is not enough to read such garbage and laugh or be enraged for a few minutes. It is of utmost importance that, especially those who identify as men and can influence masculine culture, openly speak about the harms of imbibing such ideologies. As representative as men’s rights activists try to be, their world vision has no place for homosexuals, trans* men, and other identities that don’t conform to hypermasculinity. Allowing even a handful of men to continue believing in such vitriol pushes back the achingly slow progress that humanity has made in bettering the position of diverse identities, but especially the women of the world.

-Themal

Fifty Shades Of Grey: The Next Twilight Saga?

Fifty Shades Of Grey. Fifty Shades Of Grey. Fifty Shades Of Grey!!!! That’s all anyone was talking about and clicking links to once the movie was soon to be showing in theatres. The publicity Christian Grey’s suits and good-looks generated alone were probably enough to push the movie to break-even (sarcasm intended).

Before I start this review, I think it’s fair for y’all to know that I have not read the book. I am a movie enthusiast and I love a good movie any given night. Me and my friend decided to give the famous Mr.Grey a shot the night before spring break started. What did we have to lose, right? We figured if it was going to be a good movie, then great! If not, at least we’ll get a good laugh out of it. The lack of chemistry between the actors, the bad camera angles, and the rush in the plot change seemed funny and pointless at the time. However, when I gave it some more thought, I was a little concerned.

Yes, if one found normal ‘love-stories’ to have a lack of nudity and sexual ‘passion’ then maybe you’d like the way this movie progresses. In my opinion, the female lead needed more work. Her character development throughout the movie was quite confusing and it kept going back and forth till the very end of the movie. I thought Christian Grey had a mysterious feel. He was dark and twisty in his own way and played the role of a dominant throughout the movie quite nicely. All in all, there was no chemistry.

Regardless of how the movie went on and how I would like to pick it apart, I have a bigger concern. I am concerned about the change in mentality this movie could bring about. While the U.S. has more regulations and will try its best to keep this movie out of reach from minors, other countries with much less control over movie viewers will probably be distributing this to everyone who can pay for it. How much damage could that do, one may wonder?

Remember when us early-20-somethings were 15 and Twilight was a thing? How the mind-reading Edward and mysterious Bella were star-cross lovers and we loved every bit of that story? Well… Christian and Anastasia could be the new them, except there is no longer an entirely fantasy-world-of-vampires-and-werewolves shielding us. Those who did not know BDSM was a preference and a lifestyle now know it exists and, even worse, probably think it’s the cool thing to do just because these characters do. Even those who probably don’t even know enough about sex, consent or healthy relationship dynamics are probably now in love with the idea of BDSM.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against BDSM. It’s a preference and a choice that consenting adults make. But what happens to minors who get exposed to it for the first time through Fifty Shades Of Grey? It scares me that Christian and Anastasia could become the new ‘IT’ couple that high school and middle school couples aspire to be. Men who grow up in already male-dominated societies will now find more comfort in a story such as this. Yes, there have been other movies in the past which were inappropriate for children and there will be more in the future. However, this particular movie has had so much social media presence that its reach and fans go way beyond a normal inappropriate movie in the wrong hands.

What I took away from this movie and the concerns I had after watching it: I wish societies would take a step towards actually having conversations about intimate relationships, consent and sex at the same rate as these movies come out and beg us to have these concerns. Maybe somewhere deep-down the point of this story was to raise awareness about violence and consent? Who knows? It definitely has generated a lot of debate about consent and domestic violence. We can never be too sure about the original intention of movies or their aftermath. Hopefully people will ask more questions instead of being consumed by the unrealistic concepts proposed in this movie. Hopefully… the world won’t see any more college students raping their partners to reenact scenes from Fifty Shades Of Grey. And hopefully we’ll get better at protecting the next generation of adults, a lot better than how Christian protected Anastasia’s choices.

-Suaida Firoze

Watches Make a Comeback

smartwatch-comparison-guideI’ve said it myself: “why would I need to wear a watch?”

Since I was 16 I’ve been carrying around a cellphone that tells time just as (if not more) reliably than a wristwatch. Now with the majority of us sporting smartphones, we’re even more attached to our phones, and there is an even less need for wristwatches. But as these smartphones keep shrinking and as consumers’ desire for convenience and innovation peaks, wristwatches might be making a comeback.

By now you have probably heard the term “smartwatch” before; this is just a broad umbrella term for watches that can simply do more than tell time. On the market now we have smartwatches that can track your physical activity, tell you your heart rate, your geographic location and altitude… it’s really amazing.

A U.S. survey found that people between the ages of 16 and 34 tell time by looking at their cellphones. Now cellphones and watches might start becoming paired and, perhaps in the future, inseparable. There are already several models of smartwatches that have the ability to connect to most smartphone platforms, but now Samsung and Apple (the two leading cellphone providers in the U.S.) are attempting to extend their market domination to the smartwatch industry as well.

Samsung’s release of their “S-Gear” is not novel news. It’s had glitches, and its uses and applications are limited. Apple has upped the ante and now created a watch that will communicate elegantly with its counterpart. The new Apple watch will also offer thousands of smartwatch applications that the particular model could work with.

What I find more interesting than any new gadget is how these new smartwatches will affect our daily lives. Just consider how much smartphones have changed the way of our culture. I was riding the T in Boston the other day and nearly everyone was on some sort of smartphone. Several had their eyes glued to their tablets! When that same sort of technology is no longer in our pockets, but on our wrists, we’re never going to be disconnected! You won’t miss a call and you won’t miss a notification or message. Your watch will be your calendar, your GPS, your Internet browser; the prospects are incredible.

-Alexander Santos

Words with Worldly Repercussions

Every time we use a word or a phrase, it reveals something implicit about how that thing is viewed. I know that seems a little bit abstract and like I’m just some liberal arts student looking to draw grand conclusions about the world, but bear with me. Let’s look for a moment at the phrase “throwing something away”. It implies that that thing is now launched away forever into another place and does not need to be thought or cared about. This phrase reflects a common attitude on waste disposal and implicitly gives big companies, institutions, and even cities permission to stop thinking about where their trash goes and how it affects the world around us.

When people think of the journey of their trash, many think of it all going to a dump or incinerator. But some of that trash ends up in our waterways and out into the oceans. In fact, in America in the early 20th century, dumping trash into the oceans was viewed as a common practice. “The solution to pollution is dilution” is a phrase commonly used to describe a traditional view of waste disposal. This isn’t entirely inaccurate because all things do biodegrade eventually, but the advent of widespread plastic use combined with a shift to consuming disposable products and an increased world population has caused our oceans to suffer immensely.

Prior to the invention of plastics, most consumer products were made with natural materials that could degrade in a reasonable amount of time. Dumping waste from these products into the ocean was not beneficial to most ecosystems’ health in the oceans, but the pervasiveness of plastics that we are seeing now is unprecedented. It is estimated that there is 268,940 tons of plastic in the ocean today that is ever growing. Plastic particles can be found in absurd abundance in every shape and size from large pieces to particles at the molecular level. There are so many ways that these plastic particles affect ocean ecosystems, many of which we don’t understand. For example, sometimes plastic particles look like prey, causing organisms to ingest them and often die from starvation. Plastic that is broken down to the molecular level can even behave like estrogen and chemically affect organisms in the ocean. The vast expanse of issues associated with this massive amount of plastic is not yet fully known, but it is sure to create changes in our oceans.

Because of the way the ocean currents work, there are 5 major places on Earth that these plastics are congregated and they are called gyres. This is only one of the many paths that trash can take once it is “thrown out” of our lives into a trashcan. So, next time you throw something away you, may want to think for a minute where this piece of trash is really going and if there is a better way for it to be disposed of.

-Annalise

If you are looking to learn more about plastics in our oceans check out the documentary Plastic Paradise” The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.