Tag Archives: Dan Ariely

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?



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

Humans Suck and Here’s Why//Lexi Enstrom

Throughout my high school career I always knew I was a student who excelled the most in STEM classes, which is why I chose a major in engineering. Never once did I feel excited about or inspired by my English classes because they were always the same procedure: read a book, be tested on the book’s material, write an essay about the book. Sometimes we would explore the deeper meanings behind said books, but we were rarely allowed to go off on our own and write an essay about anything we desired as long as it falls under the themes of the class. Nick Leither’s CTW (Critical Thinking and Writing) class did just that. Throughout the two quarters that I got to be apart of Nick’s CTW class, I have learned more about food, self, and culture then ever before. And boy has it changed me. We as a class (and on my own) did extensive research on factory farming, cultural and environmental impacts of meat, and dishonesty in general and it has all lead me to one conclusion: Humans suck.  Continue reading Humans Suck and Here’s Why//Lexi Enstrom

The Underlying Problems With Food and Instagram // Mariella Saludares

Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW), now that sounds like a fun class, doesn’t it? When I first saw this on my schedule, that thought didn’t exactly come to mind. Writing was such a chore for me and essays were not my cup of tea. In high school, I would have rather done anything else than write an eight page paper for my English class. However, you can imagine my curiosity when I saw that the class theme for my fall quarter Critical Thinking and Writing class was “Food Porn.” And for spring quarter, “Reading Food, Self and Culture… Lies!” What kind of class was Santa Clara University getting me into? However, what I came to learn was that I would be able to take a unique topic and write about it thoroughly, ask big questions, and write in my own style all at the same time.

Continue reading The Underlying Problems With Food and Instagram // Mariella Saludares

Ignorance is Bliss? Eh // Sarah Busey

What did I know going into the Critical Thinking and Writing sequence? Apparently, not a whole lot. Throughout my two quarters in this class, I’ve gained so much knowledge on factory farming, dishonesty, the writing process and American ignorance it’s crazy. To be completely honest, I didn’t expect it at all. After receiving my schedule and seeing that I was enrolled in a class called “Food Porn”, I really had no clue what the heck the school had just done. Who names a class after an Instagram hashtag? After settling in and being challenged to learn everyone’s names on the first day (mission accomplished), I knew that I was in for quite an experience. Continue reading Ignorance is Bliss? Eh // Sarah Busey

What’s it gonna take? // Sarah Ebrahimian

          I have to be completely honest. During Fall quarter, I refused to open my Critical Thinking and Writing class’ Camino page in the presence of other human beings. I was too embarrassed for someone to see the phrase “FOOD PORN” slathered across my screen and proceed to fall into a deep contemplation over what the heck I was doing with my life. I remember sitting at my desk the night before classes started, staring at the course title in all caps and telling myself, “So this is college.”


          Once I finished exploring the course page, I still had no clue what to expect from this class. I was met with words like “slant” and “trifecta,” our first assignment involved making food porn of our own, and I still couldn’t get over the picture of the man made entirely out of produce. I knew that I was in for something different – something unlike any other traditional English class I had ever taken.

          After my two quarter sequence of CTW, I was left with an overall sense of frustration with a hint of optimism. I wasn’t frustrated because of how much reading we had to do or how many essays we had to write. In fact, I was left flipping pages back and forth, seeking more explanations for unanswered questions, and felt embarrassed after I submitting assignment well-over the page number suggestions. The kind of questions that we were faced with every class made me think in circles. I started to question everything. I questioned myself. My personal habits. My standards. By the end of Fall quarter, I quite honestly felt terrible about myself and wondered if I had any sense of morals or personal code of ethics. The facts were placed right in front of me, yet I chose to do nothing with the knowledge I was gaining.

          Let me explain. Throughout our two quarters of study, we learned about everything from the horrors of factory farming to false advertising. We learned the ins and outs of the “system” and were presented with the cold, hard truth about what goes into our food and what goes on in our brains. Some of the most difficult realities I discovered are listed below:

  • Liquefied waste from industrialized farms is distributed into “massive lagoons,” which can cover up to 120,000 square feet (Foer, 177). Not only do they contaminate our water, but they deteriorate our land, as they “contribute to soil erosion and depletion and require high inputs of fertilizer and fossil fuels” (Puskar-Pasewicz).
  • Meat farming is “responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation” (Cowspiracy).
  • Producing a four-ounce hamburger “requires 7 pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and irrigating feed crops, 75 square feet for grazing and growing feed crops, and 1,036 BTUs for feed production and transport—enough to power a microwave for 18 minutes” (Melone).
  • A compound found in red meat, known as carnitine, “has been found to cause atherosclerosis, the hardening or clogging of the arteries, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine”(Melone). The research conducted by the scientific journal confirmed that carnitine converts to a heart-damaging compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) (Melone). Therefore, consuming large amounts of carnitine results in an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease (Melone).

          All of the solutions seemed crystal clear. Adopt a plant-based diet. Produce less waste. Stop lying to ourselves. For God’s sake, stop thinking about yourself and make a couple of sacrifices! This message was continuously pounded into our brains in David Foster Wallace’s speech, “This is Water.” Wallace shows his audience that humans are essentially stuck in a default setting that fuels self-interested thoughts, preventing us from seeing that the universe doesn’t revolve around us. The natural default setting is “the automatic way that we experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when we’re operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that we are the center of the universe and that our immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities,” Wallace says. This mentality, however, is a choice. We choose to think only about ourselves. We choose to turn a blind eye to the injustice around us. We choose to overlook the struggles and hardships of our peers. We choose to do nothing. Because that’s the easy way out.

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          We’ve become accustomed to the idea that ignoring our problems will make life easier to live through. If we pretend the issue doesn’t exist, well, its doesn’t – right? Wrong. Humans have become so self-absorbed and blind to reality that we make the conscious effort to avoid tackling critical issues and seeking answers to messy questions. We’ve ultimately resorted to self-deception and we continuously justify inaction. I focused on these concepts quite a bit in one of my essay’s Spring quarter. I explored the dangers of non-monetary transactions and its ties to dishonesty:               Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 10.38.50 PM

          This tendency to avoid dealing with the root of our problems is a theme in Ursula Le Guin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” which was one of the first pieces of literature we tackled in our Spring quarter of study. The boy in the basement, which society continuously ignores for the sake of maintaining the overall welfare of the town, reflects the human tendency to resist change. It’s so easy to turn away from problems with deeper implications because it means we don’t have to deal with the moral responsibility or guilt surrounding this issues. However, we can’t remain comfortable with walking away from problems like the citizens of Omelas do.

          Lying is easy. It’s comfortable. It’s effective. Yet, when you continuously tell yourself that everything is as it should be, you deprive yourself of the right to seek positive alternatives to toxic situations. We lie to ourselves to avoid dealing with the fear accompanied by these lifestyle changes, and endure unnecessary pain as a result.

          CTW has ultimately taught me that humans are rational: we are self-interested, will try to maximize our utility in every given situation, and will always make the transitive decision. Our free-will essentially goes down the drain when there’s a shortcut available. Our instincts takeover, and we take the easy way out. Every. Time. I’d like to think that “I’m different” or will “be the change I wish to see in the world,” but my personal experiment for my final essay in Fall quarter proved that I’m just like any other rational human being. I tried going vegetarian for a week, and I discovered that the real challenge was not the act of abstaining from meat, but mustering the confidence that it demands from you. The will to refuse animal-based protein and overcome the stigma of vegetarianism was the real challenge. I wasn’t expecting the social discomfort that accompanied the lifestyle. I failed – miserably – and couldn’t turn down another plate of my mom’s home cooked Persian food when I went home over Thanksgiving Break.

          CTW has ultimately inspired me to take on David Foster Wallace’s challenge of snapping out of my natural default setting and abandoning my habit of telling myself that change is impossible. “Learn how to think and pay attention and you will know that you have other options” Wallace says.

          And with that, I embark on the journey to challenge myself to avoid the easy way out. To stop justifying inaction and negligence. To accept change.

– Sarah

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Works Cited

Arcimboldo, Giuseppe. Vertumnus. 1590, Skokloster Castle, Milan, Italy.

Cowspiracy. Dir. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. Cowspiracy. N.p., 26 June 2014. Web.

Downing, Eve. “The Psychology of Spending.” MIT Spectrum, MIT, 1999,


Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Back Bay Books, 2010.

FoundationDesignNZ. “WATER.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 May 2013,     


Melone, Linda. “10 Reasons To Stop Eating Red Meat.” Prevention, 19 Nov. 2015.

Puskar-Pasewicz, Margaret. “Agribusiness.” Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism,

         Greenwood, 2010.

Aren’t We All Ducks in the Same Pond? // Alex Tay

Imagine a bright, sunny, and peaceful day.  You are sitting aside a pleasant body of water, this may be a neighborhood pond, a smooth lake, or even a calm sea.  Everything around you is still and exudes a an aura of calm. The bare surface that you are sitting is not rough nor smooth, not hot nor cold, but simply acts as a soft surface to only promote your sense of calm.  There are no car horns, buzzing electric wires, or wailing winds but simply the sounds of nature. The only movement in this aura of tranquility is a small duck that is gently traveling across the body of water.  A picturesque scene, right? Continue reading Aren’t We All Ducks in the Same Pond? // Alex Tay