The Age of Anti-Enlightenment? (Part 1 of 3)

 

By Blake Bouza

Editor-in-Chief

In 2017, the second-most hated phrase in America was “fake news” according to a survey conducted by The Marist Poll. It came second only to “whatever.”

We have Pope Francis to thank for the blurb on the front page.

“I think the media have to be very clear, very transparent, and not fall into – no offense intended – the sickness of coprophilia, that is, always wanting to cover scandals, covering nasty things, even if they are true,” he said. “A lot of damage can be done.”

Coprophilia is the sexual fixation on fecal matter, and given the state of news information and the way we consume it today, I don’t think we can fault the leader of the Catholic church for using such terminology.

The state of disinformation our world finds itself in, I think, can be attributed quite easily to the Internet and our newfound interconnectivity, and perhaps the general inclination to believe things we hear the first time.

Entire communities exist online though that can strengthen and support ideas that are objectively and universally accepted as wrong or unproven.

Let us examine perhaps the 21st century’s most glaring example, which also happens to have been the 5th century’s hot-button issue: the “supposed” roundness of the earth.

If this is the first time you are hearing of this issue, I would like to express my deepest condolences for opening your eyes to the strangest, most absurd controversy you will hear this year.

A rapidly growing number of people are taking hold of the idea that the Earth we are living on is, in fact, flat, as our enlightened ancestors of hundreds of years ago believed.

As a reminder, these ancestors’ greatest hits include: feeding people to lions for entertainment, burning supposed witches at stake, and, thanks to Roman propaganda, believing their emperor was also a literal god! Good times, right?

The way that the current flat earth movement claims that we are on a flat earth with none of the 50 space agencies, both privately and publicly funded, world governments, and International Space Station knowing about it is because we are being lied to by these entities.

The reason for such a conspiracy? No one knows.

I sought help with this conundrum in the form of three Vol State professors: Charles Hicks, associate professor of biology; Dr. Clark Hutton, chair of philosophy; and Dr. Philip Clifford.

I asked these gentlemen how people could be deluded into believing something like the flat earth hypothesis.

“Set out to prove something, and you’ll find a way. Set out to disprove something, and you may fail,” Clifford said.

If it can’t be disproven, Clifford put forth, it is a tautology, an idea that supports itself.

Everyone had this one guy that said the sky was falling. I called this person the village idiot.

“Now they have their own village,” Hutton said.

“They’re no longer isolated,” Hicks said, “they have a platform.”

“Abe Lincoln once said, if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does the dog have?” Clifford said. “Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it one.”

In the next couple weeks we’ll get more into the why and how people believe things and what makes people disregard information with the help of the gracious professors above.

Email me! What do you think of our state of information?

Vol State needs mental health counselors

 

By Blake Bouza

Editor-in-Chief

The last two weeks we discussed part of the gun problem our country is faced with: the guns themselves. I would like to devote a final week to this problem before moving on. I feel we do that a little too easily in the state of desensitization we find ourselves in with shootings such as Parkland.

This week, let’s talk about the mental health problem our country faces.

The Parkland shooter suffered from mental health.

“There is a clear relationship between mental illness and mass public shootings,” according to the LA Times.

But this does not, of course, mean everyone suffering from a mental illness are potential mass shooters, I want to make it clear that we all understand that point going forward.

The article continued, “At the broadest level, peer-reviewed research has shown that individuals with major mental disorders (those that substantially interfere with life activities) are more likely to commit violent acts, especially if they abuse drugs. When we focus more narrowly on mass public shootings — an extreme and, fortunately, rare form of violence — we see a relatively high rate of mental illness.”

The book “Mass Murder in the United States: A History” makes the observation that at least 59 percent of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 – 2017.

These were carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack.

MotherJones.com found a similarly high rate of potential mental health problems among perpetrators of mass shootings, 61 percent, when the magazine examined 62 cases in 2012, according to the LA times.

As has come to light since the Parkland shooting, we now know the shooter had been treated for mental illness in the past.

I have seen a case made that teachers should be allowed to bring firearms into the classroom. Teachers, though, are just as human as the rest of us and just as susceptible to dealing with mental illness.

As we saw when a teacher in Dalton, Georgia fired a handgun out a window after he barricaded himself in his classroom.

Though it is not explicitly stated the Dalton teacher had a history of mental illness, and the police state he claims to have had no intention of harming anyone, it seems clear the teacher was under some strain to have acted out in such a way.

So what is our solution? Can we solve this problem of isolation, depression and fear with policy?

I do not think I’m saying anything radical when I put forth this idea: we should solve it with conversation. At the ground level. At schools – which also, I think, will help the issue of adult mass shooters.

By that I mean, with school counselors. People who will take the time and make themselves available to students who perhaps feel isolated in their struggles. Counselor(s) to get to know students and be able to watch out for warning signs.

This counselor should not only be limited to students; faculty could very much benefit from a person like this as well.

A counselor would be invaluable here on our campus in the aftermath of a shooting like Parkland, when people feel vulnerable, perhaps a little fearful of going to campus, when 17 very fragile lives were so swiftly taken in a matter of minutes. Tell me what you think: bbouza@volstate.edu.

Thoughts and Prayers

 

By Blake Bouza

The first words spoken in this sort of thing are always really hard, so I’ll let David Hogg, a senior and student journalist at Parkland High School, do it:

This is not just another mass shooting. No shooting is just another mass shooting. This needs to be a turning point. This shooting was the result of a number of situations and individuals, but action can still and should still be taken to prevent something like this from happening.

“People in Congress, people in state legislatures, just lawmakers in general, need to stand up and not let these political divisions prevent them from saving children’s lives. Cause this can happen and it will happen again if they just make false promises and don’t take action. Because ideas without action remain ideas, and when that happens, children die.”

This is a 17-year-old young man whose life is now divided into two distinct halves: before the school shooting he and his 14-year-old sister had to live through on Feb. 14, 2018 and after it.

This shooting struck close to home. My teenage cousins live in Weston, Florida, not twenty minutes from Parkland, and go to high school only ten minutes from there.

When I heard about the shootings, I panicked but soon found out they were safe and do not attend Parkland High.

I asked my cousin, Brandon Abin, about that day, seeking insight. He knows people that go to Parkland. His girlfriend lost a friend to the shooting. His school was evacuated as soon as the news about the shooting came out.

“It was actually really scary,” said Abin. “You always hear about these things happening in other communities but never imagine it coming to yours.”

Abin said for the rest of the week his school was on lockdown. Students were not allowed in the hallways during class, and were not allowed outside the cafeteria during lunch. Security was added, and police officers patrolled the campus.

I have a friend, Olivia Laskowski, doing an internship in Australia right now.

“Living in a country where the gun control debate was settled in 1989 is astounding. Australians can’t believe we still let this happen and they accept gun death in America as a fact of what our country is about,” she said.

I’ve heard the same rhetoric about people having a higher chance of dying by choking on improperly chewed food. I’ve heard the same thing about obesity, like State Senator Dennis Baxley, who likened gun restrictions to imposing limits on forks and spoons.

Here is the issue with that talk that should die: a troubled person isn’t forcing you to choke and die. No one is forcing you to eat as much food as you do. And it certainly is not happening en masse.

Senator Baxley also said that the focus needs to be on school safety. What about the Aurora shootings in 2012? Or the Chattanooga shootings in 2015?

Some will then say it’s a mental health issue, but per capita, the USA has the same amount of mental illness as Canada, the UK or Australia, according to the World Health Organization. We largely have the same medications in all these countries as well.

Yet there is one major, obvious difference between our country and those in the context of our discussion today: a significant lack of mass shootings in comparison to our own.

Don’t mistake me or the title of this op-ed. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in it so much that I will never own a gun. I believe that owning a gun will not change the outcome of whether or not my time has come, because when I go is not for me to decide. I do not hold my life in such esteem that I would be willing to kill another person to protect my own.

Our fellow human beings require more than my prayers, though they have them. They need us to vote in people who will actually take a hard line on gun reform – because a mental health reform is even longer in coming. Mental illness is, quite unfortunately, a constant reality of mankind. Gun violence does not need to be.

Evil men will do evil deeds regardless of the tools available to them, no one will dispute that. Sometimes it can be accepting money from the wrong people/organization, and often is the mass slaughter of our brothers and sisters. It should not be the point that settles an argument – it should spark a call to action.
I’m not even saying anything super radical should happen. Let’s examine for a moment the fact that this troubled man obtained his assault rifle legally. Let’s examine how many of the other mass shootings were committed by weapons that were obtained legally.

If this minor did not have the option available to him of buying an assault rifle that was a catalyst to acting out his evil deed, would the shooting have been accomplished in the first place?

He more than likely would not have had the resources or means to obtain his weapon on the black market.

And so with the temptation of living out his dark imaginings revoked, perhaps he would have sought out help?

I obviously cannot say for certain, but I don’t think anyone coming out of the Valentine’s Day Massacre would say nothing needs to change. I’m so sick of calling for change, actually. But I’m sick of seeing nothing done. I’m sick of being told that my generation can’t change, when that does not seem to be the case at all.
I know why we are so pro-gun in our culture: the Second Amendment stipulated that we be allowed to bear arms in case the government try to take over.

Now I ask, in a world where the government has heat-seeking drones, tanks and weapons that can mow down dozens at once – will your one AR-15 really matter? We can discuss the merits of guerilla warfare at another time, but I make my point.

Oppressive governments are frequent throughout history, correct. Both sides of my family spent significant portions of their lives fleeing or recovering from living under one through the latter half of the 20th Century.

At what point do we address the very real, present problems of today and stop preparing for some hypothetical, far off problem of a government take over?

If we as a republic have allowed ourselves to get to the point of a government take over being a real threat and allowed the people we chose to be our mouthpieces in legislature to fail us, is that not on us?

Are there not other, more significant laws in our Constitution that should curb that before it ever becomes a reality, and not just the Second Amendment?

Honestly I am not here to dictate what should happen. I’m a dumb kid with a platform. I will not pretend to be an informed individual on the ins and outs of the hold of the NRA, the politicians who receive money from the organization and gun reform. I do not really know what that would look like, to be honest.

But maybe, just maybe, we can at least look at the rules that allow a child to buy an assault weapon before he is old enough to drink.

I close out with another quote from a survivor of the Parkland shootings, Isabelle Robinson:

“This shouldn’t be a fight between two different parties. This should be a coming together where we all realize that something is wrong. And even if we disagree on the way to fix it, we all just need to talk about it and stop being angry and stop slandering other people because that doesn’t help anyone. And that’s why people die, because we just can’t get along.”

 

Oscar Nominated Movies Available at Thigpen Library

 

By Katie Doll

The 90th Academy Award nominations were recently announced, and many people may be wondering who will take home the trophy March 4. Here is an Oscar-themed list of ten films available in the Volunteer State Community College Thigpen Library. Five films have been nominated for Best Picture, and five have won.

Get Out

As one of the most talked about films of 2017, this horror film received four nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards. The film follows a black man as he visits the family of his white girlfriend. The visit leads to some disturbing discoveries. The race-based film has shocking and satirical content that left viewers questioning society’s views on discrimination.

Dunkirk

The war film, Dunkirk, has eight nominations for the 2018 Academy Awards. The film depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II with little dialogue from the ensemble cast but impresses with dramatic cinematography and music.

La La Land

This fun, heartwarming musical received the most nominations at the 2017 Academy Awards. The characters are aspiring artists in the entertainment industry who fall in love in Los Angeles. Even viewers who are not fond of musicals will be captivated by the retro romance and vocals of the two characters.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Set from 1987 to the early 1990s, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) finds himself defrauding wealthy investors for his brokerage firm while getting caught up in a brew of sex, drugs and parties. This nearly three-hour film created a comedic and intoxicating mood that earned a Best Picture nomination in 2014.

The Theory of Everything

This film was nominated for five Academy Awards in 2015 and depicts the life of physicist Stephen Hawking as he falls in love and breaks new ground while being diagnosed with motor neuron disease. With stellar performances, this film goes behind the scenes of Hawking’s real life and struggles.

Moonlight

As a coming-of-age film following a black man’s journey to manhood, this film won Best Picture and two other Academy Awards in 2017. The grounded characters steal the show while dealing with themes such as sexuality, family and masculinity.

Spotlight

Based on a true story, Spotlight tells the story of a team of journalists who investigate the hidden sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. The 2016 Best Picture winner is a marvelous detective movie that will keep audiences on the edge of their seat.

Birdman

This dark comedy tells the story of a man who struggles to put on a risky Broadway production. While strange, it is beautifully shot and brilliantly directed, making it a Best Picture winner in 2015.

12 Years a Slave

The biopic tells the story of Northup Solomon, a free black man sold into slavery in mid-1800s. Thematic and heart-breaking, the film will open eyes with gruesome scenes that deserved Best Picture in 2014.

Argo

Winner of Best Picture in 2013, the film follows a man who must rescue hostages in Iran while posing as a Hollywood producer. Based on the “Canadian Caper” crisis in 1979 and 1980, this film is tense, exciting and dark.

Usefulness, a disease? (Part 2)

 

Read Part 1 HERE

By Blake Bouza

Over winter break, I had a full time job as an in-home healthcare provider.

It was in doing this job that the seeds of ideas that had been planted in that psychology class began to grow and I realized the overarching problem: society teaches us, almost from day one, that someone is only valuable when you are useful.

A common issue I found with the elderly and disabled people I provided care for was depression. When we talked it out and got to the root of the problem, I found, almost every time, that the problem was that they felt they could not be as useful in a way that they once were.

I watched a video in that same psychology class that had a psychologist going into a bed-bound, elderly lady’s home. The woman wanted to die and the psychologist wanted to find out why. When the psychologist spoke with the woman, she got down to the common denominator I stated above. Then the psychologist put forth this question: “Would picking up a broom and sweeping really be impactful?”

They shared a laugh at the absurdity of it.

The psychologist said that seniors have to learn that their contribution is no longer to give, but to receive. Receive help from those that love them and accept that their contribution is psychological rather than physical.

Obviously there are senior people that do not have the support system or help that particular woman did, but the principle remains.

I put forth that American society does not equip people to do that getting older and it does not equip younger generations to view an immaterial output in a positive light. Look at the amount of people in a nursing home, rather than at home with their families.

I am Latino, and a multi-generational home is not a foreign idea to me. Because of that it is perhaps biased of me to think that Spanish culture, (and many Eastern cultures), view their elderly in a much more positive light than American culture does.

Could it have to do with the fact that American culture is very individualistic, rather than community, and perhaps, character-driven?

The answer is not simple and there is not an easy solution. Perhaps if people placed less emphasis on things and output and instead the value of their relationships, would things change? But our society is geared toward buying The Latest Thing and upgrading to The Newest Thing and buying our loved ones The Best Thing to show them how much we love them.

It is a very accepted practice, and while not inherently bad, does require moderation and thoughtfulness.

I believe I have seen the issue from both sides: how young people view the act of instilling character values and ethics that go into staying home and raising a child, and the light that the elderly view themselves in when they are no longer viewed as “useful.”