Defining Our Humanity

When I first learned that I would have to take another English class in college I was honestly angry and frustrated. I was never a writer or enjoyed English too much growing up, and in high school, I often dreaded the writing essays and reading books. However, contrary to my personal belief, most people would tell me I have good analysis on things and would make a good English major. Even though I disagree with this statement, I find that English is important and teaches us lessons that often times gets overlooked in other classes.

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Willful Ignorance // Brianne Do

In Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and many other Asian languages, the word for America translates to “beautiful country”. It has advertised itself as a land where all can be free as long as you work hard and make a living. When you put it like that, the American Dream sounds so simple.

Key word: s o u n d s

It is, in fact, not that simple. We have spoken a lot about the lies in the food industry, factory farming, and the lies we tell ourselves. The lie I wanted to focus on is the lie that harms billions of people across the globe; we are aware that the habits and hobbies we indulge in are contributing to the exploitation of people from developing countries both at home and abroad but we remain willfully ignorant of those wrongdoings to remain in ignorant bliss.

One group during our podcast assignment decided to research the issue of modern slavery. They had a segment on witnessing a case of modern slavery in a nail salon which they reported. That got me thinking, if something as trivial and yet modern as part of industrialization is not free from unethical practices what else is there and just how widespread is this problem. It inspired to research further.

Lucky for me, my class on slavery brought a certain article to my attention. It was a New York Times expose called “The Price of Nails”. It was an eye-opening piece that took readers through the life of young Chinese woman promised a better life in America but trapped in an endless system of debt via the cruelty of the nail salons that employed her. It almost sounds comical when I hear it aloud, “Evil Nail Salons.” It sounds about as comical as “Captain Underpants,” but the reality is anything but.

No, it was not governments that lured unsuspecting young people from developing countries to take part in cruel and and inhumane industries to fuel the American economy but it was they who turned a blind eye to this exploitation. They decided this was a matter to be pushed further down the line of political leaders to deal because no one likes to get their hands dirty. According to the article, The Korean American Nail Salon Association (the nail salon industry is dominated by Korean-Americans) had the issue of criminally low wages and unsafe conditions brought to their attention but they were afraid that the industry would lose money if they enforced such rules.

When it comes to minor things (taking a pen from the bank, stealing hotel towels, not picking up your trash when you missed the trash can), we are well aware of our shortcomings as Dan Ariely in The Honest Truth About Dishonesty has pointed out. But when it comes to major things (fudging the numbers in a business account because you believe that if you didn’t, everyone in the company would be denied their Christmas bonuses because of you), we come up with all kinds of creative ways to talk ourselves out of trouble. It’s the only way you can be okay with yourself. In the case of chattel slavery, the argument was that this was God’s will and that the poor slaves would be lost without their oh-so benevolent masters. In the case of the nail salons, the owners of the salons say they are doing all they can to help these poor immigrants and having them take wage cuts and pay for their own training is a small price to pay for all the good the salon owner is doing for them.

Similarly, as consumers, we tend to justify our unjustifiable purchases. The expose on nail salons did what any reporter hopes for their work: it brought a movement towards ethical nail salons. The problem has not been eradicated entirely but there was hope as the governor of New York signed into law nail salon regulations soon after the article caused boycotts and protests among workers and consumers alike. Things have gotten every so slightly better. Nail salons, however, are not as commonly indulged in as, say, clothes or makeup or technology. It is more difficult to convince people to give up their iPhones than it is to convince them to give up their manicures. The scope of this issue is so large, what seemed hopeful a minute ago now seems hopeless. So what is to be done here?

 

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As mentioned before, it is unrealistic to get people to suddenly give up everything that was unethically made because it is likely they will be left with nothing but their house and maybe not even that. What is realistic is research. Research, research, and more research! My personal goal is to slowly take the unethical products out of my daily life and find substitutes. It is important to support and reward the companies that are doing good. I don’t know everything I’m supposed to do to (at the very least) keep from contributing to this epidemic (how can I? At this point, my knowledge of the matter is cursory at best) but I know I will keep learning. I cannot fool myself into believing that the cheap clothes that were made by people who are barely paid enough to survive are my only options. I cannot speak for everyone but I am fortunate enough to have the means to buy things that are ethically produced so why shouldn’t I?

 

Works Cited

Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves. HarperCollins, 2013.
Nir, Sarah Maslin. “The Price of Nice Nails.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 May 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/nyregion/at-nail-salons-in-nyc-manicurists-are-underpaid-and-unprotected.html.

I’m a Bad Person, and So Are You // Rueckert

I walked into Creative Thinking and Writing “Food Porn” on my first day of classes as a freshman at Santa Clara University. I thought to myself “Great, another English class I can write mediocre papers about topics and books I don’t really care about and get out with at least a C+.” just like every other English class throughout my twelve years of Jesuit Education. Yet our professor, Nick Leither, immediately shattered my hopes of coasting through my mandatory college writing courses. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was certain my twelve years of practice, hard work, and refinement of my one skill would suffice, bullshitting. Every English course prior to this course was simple and asked very little of the students. Read 

Continue reading I’m a Bad Person, and So Are You // Rueckert

A look back at my journey with food this year // Alissa LaFerriere

For me CTW has been a lot more than an English class. Sure, I have significantly improved at essay writing and formatting and have learned how to do better research. As you look through my essays, it is clear I incorporated more research into them and became more comfortable including that research. It is also evident I became more comfortable breaking the essay mold I had always been taught. I improved at creating conclusions that were thought provoking rather than a summary and brought up more interesting conclusion points as time went on. During second quarter, I explored more and took more risks with my conclusions. At the beginning of the year, my conclusions were usually a call to action. Second quarter, I tried implementing a technique I saw in another article about using a source’s theory for my intro story and then breaking down their argument in the conclusion. In my final paper, I questioned a major aspect of my paper in order to make people think. The risks I took helped me become a better writer.

However, the greatest impact CTW has had on me is it has changed my views on many topics, particularly how I look at food. My views changed dramatically through the topics of my essays and the research I discovered that supported my arguments. What we learned about in class this year really changed my views on a lot of topics, and those changes are reflected in what I chose as the topics of my essays. Continue reading A look back at my journey with food this year // Alissa LaFerriere

Life-Changing Deceptions In Our Lives // Abel Daniel

Throughout the past two quarters of CTW here at Santa Clara, I have been given the opportunity to do a lot of research along the lines of human tendencies to dishonest behaviors. The sum of these observations come together to form a picture of a modern society where we are faced with dishonesty in many basic components of our lives.

Throughout CTW 1 we analyzed inadequacies and corrupted systems in the factory farming and food industry. As we dove into discussions of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, we ran into many different insights into this industry that are inherently broken, and have far-reaching effects. One of the most relevant topics to the arguments against factory farming that we discussed was the topic of health and the effects eating factory farmed food has on it.

lose-weight-faster-nutrition-label As factory farming grows to be more and more worldwide, the scale of the operations become so big that they far outstrip the agencies tasked with regulating them. With this opportunity for little oversight, these businesses capitalize on their freedom, and proceed to engage in dishonest behaviors to increase profits.

In a study done by Dr. David B Allison, Dr. Stanley Heshka, and Dennis Sepulveda, they discovered that the nutritional labels found in supermarkets on foods showed that “across the board” the labels understated the true caloric values of the foods that they were describing (2). With such widespread inaccuracy, we cannot be surprise when we try to diet or change our lifestyles and for some reason our calorie counting techniques aren’t working. With such widespread inadequacy, we cannot hold our regulatory institutions to a high standard, however we can’t blame them, because they are far outstripped in manpower and funds. This has become a fact of life that, if we do not remain diligent to filter out, will have a negative effect on our lives. Soon we as a country must make a decision to empower those institutions to make a more meaningful difference in our lives, or begin changing industry practice to a higher moral code.

We have many opportunities to encounter dishonesty resulting from negligence that are completely unrelated to food and to public health.

In CTW 2 we dove more deeply into the direction of dishonesty as a part of our culture and the affects that that has had on the way we approach decisions throughout the day. One of our most useful references to dishonesty in this type of behavior came from our readings of Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, where we were mostly introduced to a term “fudge factor” which inspired my last essay and was one of the most critical aspects of the course. 

When we look at large scale financial scandals, we can be left in the wake looking at how such large catastrophes could go unnoticed. In the case of Bernie Madoff, who’s Ponzi scheme was busted in 2009, after $65 Billion stolen, investors were left wondering how they could’ve been so totally duped (Arvedlung 10). flat550x550075f-u4

 

 

 

 

There was a lack of oversight, again, when a highly esteemed investment banker who was well known and trusted to federal agencies such as the SEC was able to operate the largest fraud operation in the history of the United States. Through further research into what caused such dishonesty in the operation that led to this scandal, I discovered that the same phenomenon occurred in this case as did the nutritional labels mentioned before. As the operation expanded, and became a multinational, with a total tens-of-billions of dollars, it becomes too much of a burden for regulatory agencies to pay proper attention to dishonest behavior, and vast injustices, such as this one, are allowed to occur under their noses.

This, and a culmination of the other lessons of this course, have helped me to understand what the premise of the class is in a much more clear way. What these discoveries have uncovered are the fact that many things, though they appear one way, actually can actually be completely different. The implications of this, which we have finally discovered is that we can’t take things at face value. What this research has done for me as a student is that it has allowed me to develop a more substantive writing process, with more emphasis on research and real brainstorming. What I’ve learned from this class, as cliché as it sounds, is to think in a more critical capacity, and to proceed with caution, because the world isn’t exactly as it seems.

Works Cited:

Allison DB, Heshka S, Sepulveda D, Heymsfield SB. Counting Calories—Caveat

Emptor. JAMA.1993;270(12):1454–1456. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510120076034

Arvedlund, Erin. Too Good to Be True: the Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff. Penguin Group,

Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially

Ourselves. HarperCollins, 2013

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Access and Diversity, Crane Library, University of

British Columbia, 2013.

The Art of Cheating // Samantha Needham

Through out the past two quarters in this CTW course I have looked in depth at many different topics such as, factory farming, the food industry itself, dishonesty, academics when it comes to college athletes, academics in general, and what I’ve noticed is they all seem to have something in common. Cheating, and if I’ve learned anything over these past two quarters it is that cheating is an art. Cheating is inevitable, even when you don’t think you are doing it, you probably are to some extent.  Continue reading The Art of Cheating // Samantha Needham

Fake News: Media’s Money Cheat Code // Soren Madsen

After two quarters of participating in this CTW, it has become abundantly clear that everyone cheats in some aspect of their life. However, the information on cheating by corporations and interest groups is a little bit more nuanced. From Dan Ariely’s The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, cheating in a corporate structure comes from individuals seeking approval and satisfaction of their superiors (the ones who are going to pay them!) (Ariely). Yet, without a good example, this concept can be hard to visualize. For this, we can look at how news media cheats by perpetuating fake stories.

Like any other business, news outlets have a responsibility to make money. While reporting news in a completely objective context would be ideal for the customer, it is not ideal in terms of a business tactic (Graber). What attracts people from using one news service over another if they are all the same? One of the many ways to attract people is to perpetuate a certain political bias. It is hard for people to hear something they disagree with, so it is more comfortable to listen to something that corresponds with their political beliefs.

In the wake of the 2016 election, our new President was an extremely controversial candidate. As the Democratic and Republic parties fought it out for control of the executive branch, the news media did not simply stop and stare. Biased sources such as CNN and Fox did everything they could to oust the opposing candidate. However, a year later, news outlets are still just as cutthroat. There are very few news stories that are reported without bias today. So, what has the media employed in such tactics? Fake news. In fact, over 80% of students at SCU had seen a fake news story in the past 6 months.

The issue of fake news surrounds its prevalence as a trending story. When a fake news story first breaks, it is not recognized as fake. A shocking headline grabs people’s attention and remains in their head. However, those willing to question the story usually come upon a fake story later. This means that the lie isn’t caught until some time after the story goes viral; many times, the story reporting the shocking story was fake doesn’t go viral. Therefore, there is still a good portion of the population that read the story that still believes the headline was real.

In March of 2014, renowned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook Massacre was all a cover up. Jones has accused the families of those involved in the Alex-Jones-Infowars-greenstudioshooting of faking the deaths of their children. In his radio broadcast, he was quoted as saying, “‘I’ve looked at it and undoubtedly there’s a cover-up, there’s actors, they’re manipulating, they’ve been caught lying and they were pre-planning before it and rolled out with it’” (Cooper). These comments have circulated among the 2.3 million subscribers for years as Jones has mentioned the idea in other broadcasts, but it did not really become a big issue until recently.

Now, still years later, the families of the victims are harassed daily by the fanbase of Jones’ talk show by people demanding proof that their loved ones passed away. All the torment became too much, and now the six families are suing Alex Jones for defamation. One particular suit claims that Alex Jones has “persistently perpetuated a monstrous, unspeakable lie” (Williamson). The trials are taking place in different courts, and the outcomes are still to be determined.

When it comes to how I discovered these ideas, it began when I noticed that a lawsuit had been filed against Alex Jones by the families of the victims of Sandy Hook. I quickly became curious as to why the two had any relation at all; it seemed totally out of place to me. I did a quick search on “Infowars Sandy Hook” and was presented with Jones’ conspiracy theory. Wondering how he was able to say things like that publicly, I remembered the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and felt remorse for those families slandered by his words. It was then that I realized that Jones was creating this circus in the same way that our President gained media traction: bombastic speech. He was intentionally creating fake ideas to attract people and sell stuff. All of this was for money. I bet he didn’t count on a lawsuit, however.

The Infowars is the epitome of how open speech on political beliefs can make money. Alex Jones regularly pushes products and services that relate to the topics of discussion printing-money.jpgfor the show. It’s a gross misuse of sway over the less knowledgeable population and clear manipulation for profit. The actions by Alex Jones to attack the victims of a horrible tragedy clearly show the man has no remorse for whom he destroys in his path for revenue and money.

While the Infowars is a business venture in and of itself, the correlation it has with public view is dangerous. If people are led to believe in false conspiracy theories because of this show, it has huge implications in terms of how we view the First Amendment. What constitutes free speech, and where do we draw the line? If anyone is allowed to say anything, how do we reconcile the correlation of false ideas and the result of such ideas: false beliefs? It seems to me that the moral code that would prevent the slander of victims of a mass shooting doesn’t apply to everyone, especially when considering the revenue to be collected.

 

Works Cited:

Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves. HarperCollins, 2013.

Graber, Doris A., and Johanna Dunaway. Mass Media and American Politics. CQ Press, 2018.

Williamson, Elizabeth. “Truth in a Post-Truth Era: Sandy Hook Families Sue Alex Jones.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 May 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/05/23/us/politics/alex-jones-trump-sandy-hook.html.

 

 

 

 

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