SAVE LIVES: The Social Influences on Americans’ mask-wearing behavior during COVID-19 Survey

Dear everyone,

I’m conducting a study regarding the Social Influences on Americans’ mask-wearing behavior during COVID-19. The purpose of the study is to provide evidential support to public policymaking regarding the handling of COVID-19 and future pandemics. The findings and conclusions from this study can potentially SAVE LIVES. If you live in the United States, you are cordially invited to dedicate 5 MINUTES or so to complete this quick survey. (Survey link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScbWcqZ6JJHYNKrM1P5Kte7EeBR4-3U0W8ODvffAw5u3ryGGA/viewform)

Your response is confidential. This study is non-political and independent of any funding organization. I DO NOT collect identifiable information, such as your name, email, and IP address. The results of this study will be shared publicly via a journal and/or a conference. If you have any questions about the study, please contact huangsharon89@gmail.com or (206) 483-4761. Thank you in advance for completing the survey.

Quotes of the Week #1

Sunday:

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

Marcus Aurelius
selrctive focus of white flowers

Monday:

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” - Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday:

“Waste no time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”

Marcus Aurelius
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” - Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday:

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” - Marcus Aurelius

Thursday:

“Death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smail back.”

Marcus Aurelius
“Death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smile back.” - Marcus Aurelius

Friday:

Naver let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which todat arm you against the present.”

Marcus Aurelius
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” - Marcus Aurelius

Saturday:

“Feed the good ideas and let bad ideas die of starvation.”

James Clear
“Feed the good ideas and let bad ideas die of starvation.” - James Clear

Say “NO!” to Fat Stigma

Disabusing Stigmas Series (#1)

By Sharon Huang

Main Takeaways:

  • Being overweight is not a shame nor a disease
  • Diets do NOT work
  • BMI is flawed (body works biologically, not physically)
  • Finding your set-point weight is the key
  • The challengin g of social anti-fat trend is crucial
  • Steps to make peace with food and finding balance

How often do you hear that overweight is associated with the disease “obesity”, a rising epidemic in the US? How often do you see advertisements for weight-loss products, diets, or programs on the street or the Internet? How often do you hear remarks of people accusing over-weight individuals as lazy, unworthy, and unresponsible? How often do you hear a friend, family member, or colleague talking about a new diet or cardio he or she is trying out? I think the answer is “quite often”. Does it mean we are getting worse at controlling ourselves? Or are we having a higher and harsher standard for living a better life?

What this universal answer show is not the increasing pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, it is demonstrating the common social misconception and abuse of the word “fat”. We must disabuse the social stigma and myths on weight to restore individuals’ healthy relationships with food and eliminate the toxic social expectations of “ideal body”. 

Today, people diagnosed with obesity are prescribed to weight-loss diets, exercises, and even surgeries. Society meanwhile gives mounting pressure on heavier individuals by associating “fat” with lower-social status, failure, and weak willpower. Thus, a culture of dieting, pursuing “ideal” body image and weight has prevailed rampantly in the US. If obesity is the problem and so many actions have been taken, then why are we still obese? Why obesity is becoming a disease? Why is it so hard to resist the desire to eat? Why do diets rebound? The answer to those questions might be shocking to many of you due to the entrenched beliefs in the myths of obesity that you have heard and hold as ultimate truths. I genuinely hope that you can reach a simple conclusion after reading this article: Being heavier is not a shameful manifestation of weak will-power nor a detestable disease that should be addressed to obtain the well-being of an individual. The social stigma and myths that feed in a problematic mentality that makes us so engrossed in dieting, exercising, and other acts of seeking magic weight-loss. 

Please note that I am not justifying extreme weight gain nor discouraging people from improving their lifestyles when their weight is threatening their health. I am claiming that the erroneous interpretation of what weight is considered “healthy” and desirable misled the society to impose harsh and ungrounded criticisms to many individuals. Those stigmas are what must be disabused.  

The first contributor to today’s stigmatized social standards of obesity is BMI, which is the widely accepted standard of measuring obesity and healthiness since the 18th century. If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal. If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range. Many have been characterized as “obese” according to BMI, and thus became closely associated with many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and gallbladder disease. With that knowledge, But, it is invalid. It takes in no consideration of an individual’s biological differences that create various weights and physical states for individuals to be healthy. All people have different metabolic rates, which impact their basal metabolism that is responsible for 50-70% of energy expenditure. Another 30-40% contributes to physical activity. The others left are due to diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). A person’s appetite, the amount of energy they need, the amount of energy their body burns, and their weight is pre-determined by their DNA. Lifestyle and activities have some influence on individuals. However, researches have found that more active individuals are about couple pounds lighter than those who are less active, supporting the fact that exercising does not determine someone’s weight; therefore, heavier people should not be accused of being lazy or inactive those factors are frivolous in impacting someone’s weight. Furthermore, it is misleading to say higher BMI makes one vulnerable to certain illnesses. “Researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit, UK, reported in PLoS Medicine that waist circumference is strongly and independently associated with type two diabetes risk” (Nordqvist). Using BMI to determine someone’s susceptibility to certain diseases and conclude that someone is unhealthy is unreasonable and unjustified. Then why determine and judge someone’s health, social status, and even personality, based on it?

Besides BMI, health concern has been the primary driving force behind criticisms of obesity. It becomes so universally agreed that obesity increases the risk of many illnesses. Whenever we encounter someone with diabetes or heart disease, we blame their over-weightiness. However, those connections are baseless. According to recent studies, there is no positive correlation between greater weight and increased risk of those illnesses. Instead, the opposite might be true. Heavier individuals have found again and again to be having lower risks of death from all causes, as well as death due to stroke, heart failure, and diabetes. “Several studies have demonstrated that some obese individuals have lower cardiovascular risk and an improved metabolic profile, while a subset of “normal-BMI” people are metabolically unhealthy and have increased mortality risk” (Nordqvist). In fact, CDC researchers reached the same conclusion in a widely reported study published in 2005 (Boyles). Thus, there is no doubt that the biggest denouncement on overweight is tenous and should be debunked immediately.

Lastly, maybe the most unacceptable to many people is that diets do not work. Despite having numerous scientific findings that show the fight diet failure rates, countless diet recipes, theories, and practices are crowding the internet and occupying individuals’ everyday lives. “People on diets typically lose 5 to 10 percent of their starting weight in the first six months, the researchers found. However, at least one-third to two-thirds of people on diets regain more weight than they lost within four or five years, and the true number may well be significantly higher” (Wolpert). Furthermore, a study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative, involving 48,835 postmenopausal women in the United States, found that after almost 8 years of low-fat diet (roughly 600 calorie deficit), not only did not the experimental subjects lose any weight but that their waist circumference, which is a measure of abdominal fat, has increased (Howard et al). Not just low-fat dieters, a study has shown that Atkin dieters, Zone dieters, and Ornish dieters all failed to accomplish weight loss over a 12-month trial. Despite losing some weight in the first 6 months, all of the participants regained the weight gradually (Bacon).

Besides being ineffective, diets severely harm our physical and mental well-being. So many people carry intensive hope when starting a diet, seeing a little progress in the beginning, but eventually disappointed by the rebound and sometimes the few pounds gained after dieting. Diets just do not work. We are not losing weight because we lack the willpower or that we are failures. The society makes us think that we are to be blamed for our appearance, weight, and body fat. We, growing up in such a unified voice, comply with the erroneous accusation when the problem, diets, is gaining more popularity and continues to devastate our society. Whenever we diet, we are depriving our body of the food it needs to feel energetic, to function the best, and to feel secured. When being at a caloric deficit, our body immediately enters self-defense mode in preparation for the “famine” that it detects. It starts to hold on to every energy it can get its hand on by slowing down metabolism, making we feel too lethargic to move around, and sense signals of ravenous to our brain for more food. For example, when we diet, our body enters starvation mode as a result of leptin deficiency caused by the lack of fat and caloric intake. Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain when it has enough energy and signals the body to stop eating (Kam). When leptin level drops, the body cries for food by stimulating the vagus nerve to extract every energy you consume and store as fat to bring the leptin level back up (Kam). To do so, the body makes you extremely hungry. Meanwhile, your metabolism is slowed down to holds onto as much energy as possible. Two factors combined, weight-gain is inevitable. Going on diets is equivalent to starting a fight with our body, whom we are supposed to listen to, trust, and honor.

Similarly, when we consume a huge amount of food, our body ramps up its metabolic rate to burn more calories and convert that food into energy to balance out the influence of the sudden influx of abnormal amounts of calories. Our body naturally and innately know what is best for us. The truth is this: the ideal weight for an individual human being is never what society defines; it is determined from their birth, called “set-point weight”. The range of an individual’s weight fluctuates for 10 pounds heavier or lighter in this set-point range (Bacon). At the set-point, our body feels the best naturally and hence prefer to be in that range persistently (Bacon). But because of the social stigma and myths, we no longer live freely and guiltlessly in the perfect state that our body was meant to be. Neglecting hunger clues, suppressing cravings, and going back and forth between binge and dieting mess up our weight-regulation system, waging a war against our body. This usually results in an increased risk of heart disease depression, malnutrition, long-lasting negative impacts on metabolism, and eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and ruination disorder. According to WebMD, anorexia is the deadliest among all psychiatric disorders. We have been neglecting the appalling consequences of the toxic trend of dieting to achieve weight-lose. This downward spiral, if not stopped, will not only engender unimaginable destruction on our generation physically and mentally but harm the future generations who would be surrounded by those toxic ideas if no actions are taken right now. We cannot let it remains the same.

As a young woman myself, I struggled with my weight and appearance. I was so engrossed in believing that weight defines who I am and that unable to lose weight is a sign of lack of self-control and discipline, which is unacceptable and disdainful. I became so occupied with thoughts of what to eat, how much calories that brownie is, and how to fight my constant desire to eat “junk” food. I no longer trusted my body and my innate feelings. I was anxious and stressed without knowing that I needed to make a change because I was constantly reading stories of people successfully achieved weight-loss; all I knew was that I haven’t done enough. I couldn’t truly enjoy meals with my family. I didn’t want to stand and walk. I was so irritable and almost forgot how to smile and laugh freely on any small joyful matter. The stigmas and myths got me trapped in my narrow-mindedness to immerse myself in pity, guiltiness, and frustration. But I am not alone. Three out of four Americans have disordered eating behaviors. At least 30 million Americans suffer from eating disorders. At least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder every 62 minutes (“Eating Disorder Statistics”). I was fortunate enough to realize my problem to stop this self-destruction before it begets lasting harm to me mentally and physically. But more people are suffering at this exact moment with the social pressure that is unjustified and distorted. They don’t deserve that. No one does.

How we reached this dilemma is not difficult to comprehend at all. We, as a society, believe in false information, buy into popular theories, and blindly follow distorted social values that stigmatize “fat”. Regardless of scientific studies that demonstrate the ridiculousness of using BMI to determine health, associating diseases with heavyweight, and promoting diet for a better life, America refuses to change. Individuals are afraid of fighting against the whole system even when they do not agree with it. It is just easier to change myself than to change the system, isn’t it? Why cannot I just lose weight to be accepted and loved? We question ourselves, devalue our opinions, and usually choose to change ourselves to fit the society. But it is wrong, both biologically and morally. And it has been scientifically proven, so stop judging yourself. Let’s correct the societal misunderstandings.

We should never let social standards outweigh our innate functionality. We should never blame ourselves and others groundlessly. We should disabuse the social stigmas and myths of obesity!

Resources to make PEACE with Food and finding the BALANCE:

  • Books:
    • Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon, PhD
      • “Any person contemplating going on a diet to lose weight should read this book first. Every health professional who counsels people about weight control should absolutely read this book, read it again, and make sure their clients read it” – Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D.
      • Ebook, paperback, and audio all available on Amazon

Sources:

Check out the other Disabusing Stigmas series:
- The Problem with Ageism
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/08/01/the-problem-with-ageism/

Must-Read book for Everyone

Getting to know how your body ACTUALLY works biologically, disabusing social FAT stigma, making PEACE with food, finding BALANCE in your life.

“The only way to solve the weight problem is to stop making weight a problem—to stop judging ourselves and others by our size. Weight is not an effective measure of attractiveness, moral character, or health. The real enemy is weight stigma, for it is the stigmatization and fear of fat that causes the damage and deflects attention from true threats to our health and well-being.” – Linda Bacon

“Food is a wonderful source of pleasure—but it will get you into trouble if it’s the only source of pleasure you have in your life.” – Linda Bacon

“Accepting your body is not just about physicality, it’s about accepting who you are, not continuing to wait until you become the person you imagine being.” – Linda Bacon

a.co/7Gp8SUC

Nature vs. Nurture

Opinions on Debatable Issues #1

Nurture (environmental factors) plays a greater role in our abilities when we grow up. Everyone has predetermined intelligence from their DNA makeup, but the majority has intelligent disparities that are insignificant to make any discernable differences in abilities; hence, the different levels of development and accomplishment each of us may eventually obtain in adulthood depend heavily on the environmental factors that we grow up with.

The Grandmaster Experiment provides solid evidence to this claim. The parents of two sisters intentionally immersed their children in an environment that maximizes the role of chess in their lives. Since they were babies, they were taught to play chess and trained to solve intricate logic problems. They spend most of their time practicing chess. The parents had them join all the contests that they are eligible to join. As a result, chess became an indispensable part of their life and they made great achievements in this field. One of the sisters became and continues to be the youngest Chess Grandmaster. Not only are they capable of defeating much older contestants, but they have also grown to love chess as if it is their innate hobby despite neither of the two expressed any signs of special interest in chess playing when small. One night, the father found one of the girls playing chess in the bathroom and refuse to go to sleep until she solves the puzzle. The father told her to “leave them alone” and the girl replied that it’s the chess that won’t let her alone. As a result of intentional coaching and practicing, and deliberately constructed environment to optimize chess playing outcomes, the children became eminent chess players and chess lovers.

Chess, Chess Pieces, Chess Board

The belief that inborn intelligence defines future accomplishment and ability are erroneous because mounting evidence has shown that innate talent does not account for special ability when people grow up as much as intentional training does. For instance, a study examined the cause of mental athletes and ordinary people’s different memorization performance. The researchers found that all athletes’ general cognitive ability scores fall in the normal range. They are not inherently smarter than others. Instead, the researchers concluded that the athletes were trained to convert information into images to help them better retain them; they activated different parts of the brain than those of normal people. Thus, the abilities many people have been acquired through nurture, not natural talents.

The opinion of both nature and nurture play tantamount of role in our development is also unreasonable because the power of nurture evidently surpasses that of nature. A study found that England taxi drivers, who easily memorize the routes in London, have developed their gross structure of the brain with more neurons grown as a result of repeated driving practices. This facilitates their memorization. Some may argue that it might be an innate ability. However, the researchers found that, just as muscles, that structure of the brain and development of neurons stopped and degenerated when they no longer drive. In addition, the longer a taxi driver has been in this occupation, the more profound development is seen in his brain. This study shows that the power of nurture is so strong that it can even alter the makeup of our brain, which is mostly predetermined by genetic factors and drastically influence our capability.

Brain, Human, Cortex, Anatomy

Knowing that environment is crucial in shaping one’s skills and abilities, we should pay close attention to where we live, whom we surround us, and what we are exposed to. It is human nature to imminent the close, the many, and the powerful. We cannot help being influenced by people around us, desiring to be included and successful.

“Close” refers to family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. They have the most influence on us because we are immersed in an environment that is shaped by their behaviors and attitudes. Parents with manners and high education mostly raise polite children whereas alcoholic, addicted, or abusive parents usually fail to provide quality and enough parenting needed for their children to grow up into competent and kind individuals.

man in blue long sleeve shirt carrying baby in white onesie

“Many” refers to popular beliefs and massive groups. The internal pressure to comply with the behaviors of the majority makes us change to avoid uniqueness or nonuniformity, fearing to lose approval from others. As James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, states, “The reward of being accepted better than being right alone.” In fact, the Asch Conformity Experiments shows strong implication that humans are generally prone to making incorrect decisions when seeing others doing the same because of the underlying pressure to conform to others regardless how rediculous others’ answer might be.

people holding shoulders sitting on wall

Next comes “Powerful”, which refers to status, accomplishment, and reverence. Once fitted in, we want to stand out, be respected, and applauded for. As a result, do things that impress others and are valued by the society became our goals. If the people around me appreciate hardworking and academic accomplishment, I would be compelled to be studious. If I have friends who think to smuggle, take drugs, and break the laws are cool, I am more likely to end up in jail, rather than in a prestigious company working towards my dream.

Chess, King, Chess Pieces, Chess Board

The importance of nurture (environmental factors) is unquestionable. It is thus imperative to deliberately select our friends, jobs, activities, etc. to create a positive and beneficial environment that shapes us into the better version of ourselves in the future. DNA does play a role. But considering the similar IQ of the majority of people, nurture is much more impactful.

Sources:

Check out other Opinions on Debatable Issues:
- The "Weaknesses" of DACA
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/08/25/the-weaknesses-of-daca/
- Why the US Should Hold Onto USPS
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/09/01/why-the-us-should-hold-onto-usps/
- Why No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is a FAILURE
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/09/05/why-no-child-left-behind-act-ncld-is-a-failure/
- The Fairness of Progressive Taxes
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/09/12/the-fairness-of-progressive-taxes/
- The United States Elections Should NOT be Run as a "Lottocracy". https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/09/26/the-united-states-elections-should-not-be-run-as-a-lottocracy/
- Parents Should NOT be Given the Legal Rights to Refuse Medical Treatments for Children
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/10/03/parents-should-not-be-given-the-legal-rights-to-refuse-medical-treatments-for-children/
- Roe v. Wade: Why the Current Ruling is both Unconstitutional and Unethical
https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2020/10/10/roe-v-wade-why-the-current-ruling-is-both-unconstitutional-and-unethical/

Key to National Peace and Prosperity: U.S. Civilian Agencies’ Interagency Collaboration in Latin American Drug War

July 8th, 2020

Approximately 150,000 organized-crime-related intentional homicides occurred as a result of Mexican government’s official declaration of its war on drugs (“Mexico Drug War Fast Facts”). The U.S. government has been aiding the Mexico can government in this battle, hoping to weaken narcotic groups and create regional peace and prosperity (Seelke & Finklea). Officials of the State Department (DOS) and the Pentagon agree that drug trafficking organizations (DTO) can “spread corruption, undermine fledgling democracies and can potentially finance terrorists” (Lopex). Thus, since the 1970s, multiple collaborative programs have been proposed and implemented by domestic and international interagency to curtail drug trafficking and reduce violence (Huey). The Foreign Service, under DOS, has been collaborating with and coordinating the other U.S. civilian agencies, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to implement those programs. Their collaboration has yielded great results. However, in the implementation of Plan Colombia and Merida Initiative, the lack of interagency interaction to coordinate different agency goals, procedures, and timetables in the collaborative implementation process has led to delays in funding and difficulties in the nationalization of US’s aid. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a joint interagency coordination group (JIACG), within which regular, timely, and collaborative working relations among DOD, USAID, and other U.S. government civilian agencies can be established to tackle obstacles in funding and nationalization. 

For the past few decades, DOS has been the leading force that manages the majority of counternarcotic policy in Colombia under the overall direction provided by the National Drug Control Strategy (“Colombia”). Every year, DOS produces an annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report that incorporates the inputs of other U.S. agencies involved in counternarcotic efforts (“Colombia”). For Plan Colombia, which was the first official collective effort of the United States and Colombian governments, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), USAID, DOJ, DOS, and Department of Defense (DOD) were collaborating on the implementation and management of all programs. Since 2007, the focus of U.S. aids has shifted from military assistance programs to nonmilitary ones, especially those providing alternative development (“Colombia”). For the implementation, USAID, DOJ, and DOS are responsible for overseeing nonmilitary programs (“Plan Colombia”). In particular, DOS has led the effort of all program and project implementation, whereas the USAID is in charge specifically of ensuring the long-term sustainability of alternative development programs and projects initiated by the U.S. government. The majority of funding of the DOS in Colombia came from the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement account (“Colombia”). With different emphasizes, U.S. agencies are working together in this War on Drugs.

The enormous resources devoted to military programs have yielded significant positive results in strengthening Colombian security. However, the incorporation of U.S. agencies has encountered difficulties when they conduct interagency nationalization, which is the shifting of responsibility of managing ongoing programs from the U.S. agencies to the Colombian government. In response to the congressional direction for nationalization since 2005, DOS, USAID, DOD, and DOJ have been undertaking a series of separate initiatives. Nevertheless, as they each have their “own approaches to nationalization with different timelines and objectives that have not been coordinated to promote potential efficiencies” (“Plan Colombia”), programs have nationalized at different paces. In 2008, one program was nationalized, two were in transitions, and two came with undefined transfer date (“Drug Reduction Goals”). This mixed result is the outcome of poorly coordinated and non-collaborative acts of multiple U.S. agencies, postponing the process of nationalization. Recognizing the deficiency, the Congress has disbursed additional funds to expedite this process in 2008. Since then, DOS and DOD have been taking effective actions to nationalize the five major Colombian military and National Police aviation programs. However, USAID’s program- and project-specific nationalization efforts have not been integrated with those of other government agencies (“Plan Colombia”). The absence of an integrated plan of all U.S. agencies is hindering nationalizing assistance programs in Colombia. To achieve the optimal efficiency, more interagency collaboration to “incorporate and rationalize the complex mix of agency programs, funding plans and schedules, differing agency goals and varying timetables for nationalization” is needed (“Plan Colombia”).

Today, DOS, USAID, DOJ, and DOD have been managing the implementation of the Merida Initiative; nevertheless, they have been facing the same challenge of the lack of interagency communication and collaboration that have resulted in delays of program implementation. In the fiscal year 2008, DOS constructed its detailed Spending Plan in cooperation with other U.S. agencies mentioned above (“Merida Initiative”). However, in actual implementation, even though DOS has managed the obligation of most funding, it employs three different obligation processes due to the three bureaus that manage the funding account differently (“Merida Initiative”). While the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) appropriates the majority of the funds, USAID is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and receives funds from the Economic Support Fund Account (“Colombia”). DOD, meanwhile, can only start obligating the funds after they have been allocated by Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and the Central Transfer Account (“Colombia”). All three state bureaus utilize their own methods to track funds, prolonging the process of obligation and complicating the tracking of funding status (“Status of Funds for the Mérida Initiative”). In fact, 46% of the nearly $1.6 billion of Merida funds appropriated by Congress between 2008-2010 has been obligated, and only 9% has been disbursed (Olson & Wilson). The delays in funding convoluted DOS’s job. In 2008, DOS was required to submit a spending plan of appropriated funds that included “concrete goals, actions to be taken, budget proposals, and anticipated results” due to the Supplemental Appropriations Act (“Merida Initiative”). In addition, under 22 U.S.C. & 2413(a), DOS is required to inform Congress of the “type of assistance and level of funding to be provided to individual countries and international organizations” (“Merida Initiative”). In order to construct the spending plan and the annual report to the Congress before implementing programs and projects of the Merida Initiative, DOS has been consulting with agents from DOD, USAID, and DOJ on their progress that are all measured and executed with different procedures. Consequently, delays have happened, which frequently interrupted ongoing programs to stop and wait for funds to resume. Those delays have compromised “programs’ credibility with host country counterparts” and resulted in “missed opportunities to provide support to address urgent issues” (“Merida Initiative”). The various procedures, objectives, and timetables of U.S. agencies are undermining the efficiency of the Merida Initiative and require more interagency collaboration to resolve. 

In the War on Drugs, DOS, under the general guidance of the White House’s ONDCP (“Colombia”), has led other U.S. agencies in the implementation of both military and non-military programs to support counter-narcotic efforts of Latin American nations. The Foreign Service, in particular, has played key roles in the communication between U.S. Congress and U.S. civilian agencies as it is responsible for providing detailed and thorough reports regarding funding status, program progress, and recommendations of improvements to the Congress. Nevertheless, discrepancies among all U.S. agencies’ implementation processes have impeded the US’s effort in combating illicit drug trafficking through interagency collaboration. In order to optimize the U.S. agencies’ involvement in nationalizing programs that are supported by the U.S .in Colombia and providing prompt implementations of programs in Mexico, better coordination of interagency works must be conducted through the establishment of a specific JIACG that focuses on encouraging communication of newest updates of funding and implementation status between agencies, improving interagency coordination of ongoing military and alternative development assistance programs, and integrating nationalization plans to sustain programs after their start-up phase. 

Sources:

*”Five Key Points to Understanding the Merida Initiative.” U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Mexico, https://mx.usembassy.gov/our-relationship/policy-history/the-merida-initiative/. Accessed 21 May 2020.

Huey, David. “The US war on drugs and its legacy in Latin America.” The Guardian, 3 Feb. 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2014/feb/03/us-war-on-drugs-impact-in-latin-american. Accessed 22 May 2020.

Lopex, Daria, et al. “U.S. military expands its drug war in Latin America.” USA Today, 3 Feb. 2013, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/02/03/us-expands-drug-war-latin-america/1887481/. Accessed 20 May 2020.

“Mexico Drug War Fast Facts.” CNN Library, 27 Aug. 2019, CNN https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/02/world/americas/mexico-drug-war-fast-facts/index.html. Accessed 22 May 2020.

Olson, Eric L. & Wilson, Christopher E. “GAO Report Finds Merida Initiative Needs Better Performance Measures.” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Mexico Institute, WIL50N Center, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/publication/gao_merida_initiative_2010.pdf. Accessed 22 May 2020.

*Seelke, Clare Ribando & Finklea, Kristin. “U.S. Mexican Security Cooperation: The Merida Initiative and Beyond.” Congressional Research Service, 29 Jun. 2017, P41349, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41349.pdf. Accessed 21 May 2020.

*United States Government Accountability Office. Colombia – U.S. Counternarcotics Assistance Achieved Some Positive Results, but State Needs to Review the Overall U.S. Approach. Washington, DC. 2018, GAO-19-106. Accessed 21 May 2020.

*United States Government Accountability Office. Drug Control – Agencies Need to Plan for Likely Declines in Drug Interdiction Assets, and Develop Better Performance Measures for Transit Zone operations. Washington, DC. 2005, GAO-06-200. Accessed 22 May 2020.

*United States Government Accountability Office. Merida Initiative – The United States Has Provided Counternarcotics and Anticrime Support but Needs Better Performance Measures. Washington, DC. 2010, GAO-10-837. Accessed 22 May 2020.

*United States Government Accountability Office. Plan Colombia – Drug Reduction Goals Were Not Fully Met, but Security Has Improved; U.S. Agencies Need More Detailed Plans for Reducing Assistance. Washington, DC. 2008. GAO-09-71. Accessed 20 Mar. 2020.

*United States Government Accountability Office. Status of Funds for the Mérida Initiative. Washington, DC. 2009, GAO-10-253R. Accessed 21 May 2020.

* denotes primary source

The Solution to the Jurisdictional Void in Native American Reservations: Righteous Interpretation of Tribal Sovereignty.

July 8th, 2020

Tribal sovereignty means the rights of self-rule of the Native American tribes, which, according to Justice Marshall, are “domestic dependent nations” (Fletch 650). Despite the ratification of the Indian Reorganization Act and Indian Civil Rights Act, the U.S. federal government and the Supreme Court have been diminishing the historically inherent sovereign authority exercised by the Native American tribes (“Indian Reorganization Act.”) (“Indian Civil Rights Act.”) through the unrecognition of tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian petitioners that causes the formation of a jurisdictional void. 

Historically, Indian tribes have had judicial power over all cases rise within their territories. However, since the Supreme Court ruled the first case over non-Indians in 1881, tribal sovereignty has been increasingly threatened by the Court’s opinions that were dominated by overriding national interests. According to Alexander Tallchief Skibine, a professor of law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, the Supreme Court implicitly stated in 1978 that due to the positions of domestic dependent nations, the tribes hold no inherent powers to “civilly regulate” nor criminally prosecute non-members within Indian reservations with two exceptions: 1. Non-Indians were “in consensual relations with the tribal members or tribe itself” (1011). 2. The Non-Indians directly threats the “health and welfare of the tribe, its economic security, or its political integrity” (1011). However, these two exceptions that are established to ensure tribal powers have been gradually invalidated. In a paper researching legal and economic impacts of Indian self-rule, Joseph P. Kalt and Joseph William Singer point out that the Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that the tribes are not justified to impose zoning laws on no-Indian owners of land within the reservation (17). This court opinion directly bereaved the tribes’ authority to protect their economic interests and impacted later cases. In 1990, the Court asserted that tribes cannot apply their tort law on non-Indian car accidents that occur within the reservations, even though the tribe should protect its members who drive on the reservation by regulating the driveways (Kalt & Singer 17). This ruling impinged the social interests and security of the Indians. Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that tribes cannot impose taxes on non-Indian owners of fee lands because the non-Indians’ status as “Indian trader[s]” licensed by the Indian Affairs Commissioner was insufficient to support the tax’s imposition (17). Thus, the first exception did not apply even the tribe has “[provided] significant services to the [petitioner]” (17). The Court further reasoned that the second exception was inapplicable because the “acreage of non-Indian fee land is minuscule in relation to the surrounding tribal land” (Atkinson Trading Co. v. Shirley, 2001). As thus, Native American tribes’ jurisdiction is diminished over non-Indians.  

In response to the unfair rulings, Congress has made progress on reserving the powers of self-government of the Native tribes. However, without interpreting that tribal sovereignty gives Indian tribes complete authority over people and objects within their territory, most rulings have been and are going to maintain the current trend. In 1990, the Federal District Court granted the petitioner Duro’s writ in Duro v. Reina by stating that tribal jurisdiction of non-Indians “constitute discrimination based on race in violation of the equal protection guarantees of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968” (Duro v. Reina, 1990). In this case, the jurisdictional void was created. Duro, an enrolled member of a tribe murdered a member of a different tribe, was considered an Indian by the federal justice system. Consequently, the case applied to the Indian-against-Indian exception that eliminated federal courts’ jurisdiction over this case (Duro v. Reina, 1990). Meanwhile, the tribe that was left with the crime subject lacked the sovereign to impose a sentence. Thus, it was difficult to reach a judgment, which eventually resulted in Duro’s exemption. Although the case was reversed by Congress later, the Court concluded that the tribes were “implicitly divested” of exercising criminal jurisdiction over a nonmember in 1924 when Indians were granted U.S. citizenship and tribes signed the treaties because of their domestic dependent status (Duro v. Reina, 1990). According to Kathryn E. Fort, the Director of the Indian Law Clinic at the Michigan State University College of Law, the Court always rules “using radically charged decisions and statues for precedent” (306). This approach combined with the interpretation of tribes’ jurisdictions over non-members has compelled later cases to result in the disadvantage of Indian tribes. For instance, in 2008, the Court ruled that the tribe lacks the sovereign to regulate the non-Indian Petitioner’s sale of its fee land” (Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., 2008). Moreover, when the tribes are eliminated of the power to try non-Indians, according to Duane Champagne, a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and American Indian Studies at UCLA and Professor of Law Emeritus at UCLA School of Law, their tribal members are liable in U.S. courts and to U.S. laws of crimes committed outside of reservations and have to be tried in U.S. courts (Champagne). This double standard conspicuously demonstrates the state’s discrimination, which is causing a jurisdictional void, which has been harming the Indian tribes, among non-Indians.                            

The jurisdictional void caused by continuous oblivion of the problem is severely undermining American Indians’ health, welfare, and economic security. For instance, since 2011, North Dakota has been having an influx of non-Indian oil workers rushing onto the reservations and exacerbated the problem. The lack of tribal jurisdiction in this situation was described by some tribal officers as encouraging “lawlessness”, which is corroborated by their anecdotes of being told by non-Indians that they have no authority to do anything to them under the current justice system (Crane-Murdoch). On the contrary, with efficient tribal authority, amelioration has been made. Joseph P. Kalt, a Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, and Joseph William Singer, a Bussey Professor of Law, argue that through “tribal assumption of policing and law enforcement activities under contracting and compacting with the federal government” by “shifting the locus of control from Washington, D.C. to the local tribal headquarters ” has improved “objective performance of policing on reservations and the subjective attitudes of reservation citizens toward police activities” (31). They corroborate their claim using the Gila River Indian Community, which “has sharply … decreased crime (while the rates for similar crimes have risen in neighboring Phoenix”, where has performed no tribal assumption of enforcement) (Kalt & Singer 31).

According to Goldberg Carole E., who was appointed by Barack Obama to the Indian Law and Order Commission to investigate issues of safety and justice in tribal communities, one possible solution to ensure tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians is to limit state jurisdiction (118). Nevertheless, it would take “a long process and, under current law, completely dependent on state consent” (Goldberg-Ambrose 1138). So even if the tribes speak up to the state, the federal government is unlikely to consent because they are “insensitive to tribal concerns and eager for any excuse to expand its authority at the tribe’s expense” (1138). A more feasible alternative solution is to interpret tribal jurisdiction in the context of complete sovereignty, which means “supreme authority within a territory” according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Philpott). The effect of this resolution has shown in Washington v. Cougar Den, which was largely impacted by Justice Gorsuch’s different interpretation of tribal sovereignty (Vock). According to Daniel C. Vock, a reporter for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, instead of seeing the Indian tribes as lacking jurisprudence, Justice Gorsuch decided that state’s fuel taxes violated the 1855 treaty that “guarantees the right to travel freely on public freeways” and was an act of insatiability of the state on its pre-made promises of tribal sovereignty (Vock). This ruling of admitting Indian tribes’ authority actuates later rulings to consider the undeprivable jurisdiction that the tribes have with granted sovereignty. However, one Supreme Court judge has limited influence: while Justice Gorsuch was assuring tribal jurisdiction, Chief Justice John Roberts has “ruled against tribes in disputes over treaties and land claims” and discouraged tribes to appeal to the higher court in fear of getting adverse rulings (Vock). Nevertheless, the impact of righteous interpretation has shown; thus, redefining tribal sovereignty is a protentional solution that is worth a try.

Sources:

Champagne, Duane. “Non-Indians and Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction.” IndianCountryToday, 23 Dec. 2012, newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/non-indians-and-tribal-criminal-jurisdiction-psdSZ3LqSkqFaiugTponyg/.

Crane-Murdoch, Sierra. “On Indian Land, Criminals Can Get Away with Almost Anything.” The Atlantic, 22 Feb. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/02/on-indian-land-criminals-can-get-away-with-almost-anything/273391/.

Fletcher, Matthew L.M. “The Iron Cold of the Marshall Trilogy.” SSRN,vol. 82, no. 627, 25 Aug. 2016, pp. 650. Michigan State University Legal Studies, ssrn.com/abstract=924547.

Fort, Kathryn E. “The Vanishing Indian Returns; Tribes, Popular Organism, and the Supreme Court.” SSRN, vol. 47, no. 297, 2013, pp. 300-310. St. Louis University Law Journal, ssrn.com/abstract=1752430.

Goldberg-Ambrose, Carole. “Of Native Americans and Tribal Members: The Impact of Law on Indian Group Life.” JSTOR, vol. 28, no. 5, 1994, pp. 1123–1148. Law & Society Review, doi:10.2307/3054025.

“Indian Civil Rights Act.” Tribal Court Clearinghouse, www.tribal-institute.org/lists/icra.htm.

“Indian Reorganization Act.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Oct. 2016, www.britannica.com/topic/Indian-Reorganization-Act.

Kalt, Joseph P. and Singer, Joseph W. “Myths and Realities of Tribal Sovereignty: The Law and Economics of Indian Self-Rule” SSRN, No. RWP04-16, 18 Mar. 2004, pp. 16-31. KSG Working Paper, ssrn.com/abstract=529084

Philpott, Daniel, “Sovereignty”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalt ed., 25 Mar. 2016, Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2016/entries/sovereignty/.

Tallchief Skibine, Alexander. “Tribal Sovereign Beyond the Reservation Borders.” SSRN, vol. 12, no. 4, 13 Jul. 2010, pp. 1010-1013. Lewis & Clark Law Review, ssrn.com/abstract=529084.  

Atkinson Trading Co. v. Shirley. 532 U.S. 645. Supreme Court of the United States. 2001. Justia Law, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/532/645/.

Duro v. Reina. 495 U.S. 676. Supreme Court of the United States. 1990. Justia Law, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/495/676/.

Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co. 554 U.S. 316. Supreme Court of the United States. 2008, Justia Law, supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/554/316/.

Vock, Daniel C. “In Tribe v. State Cases, Supreme Court Shifts Support to Native Americans.” Public Safety & Justice, Governing, 28 May 2019, www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-tribal-rights-supreme-court-ruling-native-americans.html.

What You can do to Make the MOST out of this “Isolating” Pandemic

Surviving COVID-19 Series (#1)

Spend Valuable Time with Your Family.

  • Cook with your families
  • Watch a family-friendly movie altogether
    • Toy Story 4
      • “Pixar by the numbers, this third and largely unnecessary sequel to Toy Story delivers everything you’d expect from the animation studio, minus the warmth, wit, and dread.” – Ben Sachs
    • The Wizard of Oz
      • “Seventy-five years on, it hasn’t dated in the slightest.” – Geoffery Macnab
      • “The central themes of illusions, dreams and going on an extraordinary adventure all the better to come home and appreciate what you have there are enduring.” – Sophie Monks Kaufman
    • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
      • “The latest entry in a fully saturated genre that somehow, through sheer creative gumption, does something new.” – David Sims
    • Inside Out
      • “In the first half of the film, I was being piloted by Confusion and Dissatisfaction. But by the end, Joy was very much in charge.” – Nicholas Barber
    • Coco
      • “Funny, irreverent and eye-popping. It will also make you want to cry at least once but possibly as many as three times.” – Charlotte O’Sullivan
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
      • “To say of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that it is among the genuine artistic achievements of this country takes no great daring.” – Otis Ferguson
    • Incredibles 2
      • “A gorgeously curated scrapbook of sharply observed household comedy, sublimely staged action, a pinch of Chuck Jones-era slapstick, and enough modernist eye candy to induce a sugar coma in design buffs.” – Robbie Collin
    • Paddington
      • “A dash of Wes Anderson and a sprinkle of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, swirled around with a wonderfully fluid sense of airiness and light. It’s mannered, yet carefree, colorful, and evocative.” – Katie Walsh
    • Finding Nemo
      • “The tropical pleasure is a beautifully imagined adventure that beguiles children and tickles adults.” – James Christopher
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
      • “For 10 years and eight films we’ve gotten to watch these young actors grow as people, as performers and as characters. It has been a true coming-of-age saga, in the fullest and most moving sense of the term.” – Christopher Kely
  • Start a meaningful conversation with your grandparents
    • What are some of your happiest moments?
    • What has been your biggest challenge in life?
    • Do you have a bucket list? Which item can we do together?
    • What piece of advice do you want to pass along to future generations?
    • How do you want your legacy to be remembered?
  • Get to know your younger siblings
    • Games
      • UNO
        • Players take turns matching a card in their hand with the current card shown on top of the deck either by color or number. Special action cards deliver game-changing moments as they help you defeat your opponents.
      • Lava game
        •  Jump from couch to couch without touching the floor unless it’s a pillow. The players must keep moving and try to hit and make other person touch the floor and melt (in lava)!
      • Apple roll
        • Try to roll an apple between you and your sibling without dropping it!
      • Blind Treasure Hunt
        • Place some treats around the house and blindfold yourself or one of your sibling. Let the others (who are not blindfolded) guide the ”blind one” to the treat with words.
      • Catchy Catch
        • Get a beach ball (balloon could work too) and toss it in the air. The players cannot touch the ball with hands and cannot let the ball fall on the floor. Advise them touch it with their noses, heads, feet, tummy.
      • Balloon walk
        • Stand side by side with your siblings and but the balloon between your hips. Walk across the room without dropping the balloon (and without using hands to help hold it). If you drop it, you need to start all over again 😦
      • Large Paper Painting
        • Tape some paper to a large piece of cardboard, put it on the ground outside and let the fun begin!
      • https://playtivities.com/activities-for-siblings/
  • Share or read them a book
    • Where the Wild Things Are
      • “Letting out your inner monsters, showing how imagination allows for an escape from life’s doldrums.”
    • The Abosolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Inidan
      • “A coming-of-age novel illuminates family and heritage through young Arnold Spirit, torn between his life on a reservation and his largely white high school.”
    • Harry Potter (Series)
      • “Seven years after the final volume was published, readers young and old still go crazy at the slightest rumor of a new Potter story.”
    • The Book Thief
      • “A good intro to contemplation of the Holocaust.”
    • A Wrincke in Time
      • “This surrealist adventure has provided generations of children with their first-ever mind-blowing experiences… Meg learns self-sufficiency and bravery in the process.”
    • Charlotte’s Web
      • “Though family farms may be less common than they were in 1952, E.B. White’s novel remains timeless for its enduring meditation on the power of friendship and of good writing.”
    • Holes
      • “A story of a family curse, fancy sneakers and poisonous lizards moves forward and backward through time, telling of how Stanley Yelnats IV ended up in a juvenile prison camp. “
    • Matilda
      • “Poor Matilda feels thwarted and ignored by her family—a sense that many preteens share. They don’t share her magical powers, but that’s the enduring appeal of this escapist frolic.”
    • The Outsiders
      • “The Author’s striking look at Ponyboy and gang life in the 1960s has resonated for decades with readers of all kinds, whether they identify more with the Greasers or the Socs.”
    • The phantom Tollbooth
      • “Illuminating language and mathematics through a picaresque story of adventure in the Kingdom of Wisdom.”
    • The Giver
      • “Pain and trauma have an important place in individual lives and in society, and to forget them is to lose what makes us human.”
  • Construct a LEGO toy
    • Disney Legos: A Frozen-themed adventure
      • Build a boat and market scene where Elsa and Olaf can buy produce or a pie
    • Star Wars Legos: Hone your lightsaber skills
      • Luke’s house on Ahch-To Island, includes characters from multiple generations of movies, namely Luke Skywalker and Rey, the protagonist in The Force Awakens (2015) and The Last Jedi (2017).
    • Lego City: Creative camping play
      • The trailer opens up to reveal a tiny stove, fridge, and table, and the set also includes three minifigures equipped with accessories for fishing and cooking.
    • Lego Creator 3-in-1: For the dinosaur lover
      • Includes instructions for building a pterodactyl, a triceratops, or a T. rex with its 174 predominantly green Lego bricks.
    • Lego Friends: A dollhouse-style playset
      • A dollhouse-like set where a family of three figures and their pet rabbit can sleep, cook, work, and relax on a swing set.
    • https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-lego-sets-for-kids/

Focus on Self-improvement and Self-care.

Treat Your Body

Continue to Enrich Your Mind

  • Read a book
  • Listen to an audiobook
    • Beautiful Ruins
      • “In this sprawling tale of stardom, sunshine, and very flawed people chasing very real dreams, a ghost-like American celebrity arrives on the coast of the Ligurian Sea circa 1962.”
    • Sabrina & Corina: Stories
      • “Astounding collection of stories about Indigenous Latina women laid the ground for an incredible performance.”
    • Daisy Jones & The Six
      • “Written like an oral history, weaving one narrator with the next as each unveils the downfall of a legendary 1970s rock ‘n’ roll band.”
    • Children of Blood and Bone
      • “Pulled from West African mythology to build a world of magic and monarchy in this dazzling fantasy epic.”
    • Red. WHite & Royal Blue
      • “Empowering, hilarious, sweet and sexy, this is a dopamine boost we all urgently need.”
    • The Dutch House
      • “In this stirring story of siblings, money, identity and forgiveness, all surrounding one glittering estate in eastern Pennsylvania, Hanks is balanced, measured and still so endlessly charming.”
    • Dune
      • “The story shares slight similarities with Star Wars and Star Trek lore, but free of the former’s predictability and the latter’s tropes.”
    • Becoming
      • “This memoir explores Michelle Obama’s pre-White House years as well as her time as First Lady.”
    • Nothing to See
      • “About two kids who spontaneously, unpredictably combust. It’s a riotous but surprisingly heartwarming story about motherhood, status, and the lengths we’ll take when we finally find the love we were looking for.”
    • Lincoln in the Bardo
      • “Wild but remarkable audio treat, as rich and unexpected as its plot, following a grief-stricken Abraham Lincoln and the ghosts that float beside him.”
    • https://www.elle.com/culture/books/g32439568/best-audiobooks/
  • Follow a podcast
    • Bodies
      • “Host Allison Behringer peels back the curtain on medical mysteries and phenomena in this intimate documentary-style podcast. People share their stories of medical mystery in a revealing, raw way that may make you go, ‘Oh, me too!'”
    • The American Life
      • “Its huge backlog of episodes alone will give you lots to fill your ears. let host Ira Glass guide you through fascinating stories about people among us, in a beautifully produced pod.”
    • Reply All
      • “Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt take questions from callers about how technology impacts their lives, as well as discussing Internet-adjacent phenomena and issues. It’s fun, it’s infectious, and educational all at the same time.”
    • Fiasco
      • “Audio documentary series about politics, power, and what really happened during our country’s most seminal events.”
    • Why Don’t you Date me?
      • “Let’s be real, we’ve all probably asked ourselves this exact question at some point. But few of us can talk about it as hilariously as Nicole Byer can. Listen along as she recounts the #struggle that is modern dating.”
    • The Daily
      • “Host Michael Barbaro breaks down the biggest news of the day (hence the name) in a format that will make you feel like you know what’s happening out there.”
    • In the Dark
      • “The first season of this gripping investigative true crime podcast follows journalist Madeleine Baran as she reports on the kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling.”
    • Serial
      • “The one that really that put the genre on the map, this smash hit true crime podcast hit zeitgeist with its first season, in which journalist Sarah Koenig investigated the case of Adnan Syed who was accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend. “
    • You’re Wrong About
      • “In this educational and entertaining podcast, hosts Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall revisit the throwback media sensations you thought you knew. And what they reveal totally blows our minds.”
    • Motherhood Sessions
      • “Renowned reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks holds honest, illuminating conversations that feel like listening in on a therapy sesh.” Difficult questions about becoming a mom, being a mom, or a grandmom answered.
    • https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g28353940/best-podcasts/
  • Join online courses
    • Toastmasters
      • Providing a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.
      • https://www.toastmasters.org/
    • Edx
      • Access 2000 free online courses from 140 leading institutions worldwide. Gain new skills and earn a certificate of completion.
      • https://www.edx.org/
    • Coursera
      • Build skills with courses, certificates, and degrees online from world-class universities and companies.
      • https://www.coursera.org/

Take care of your home

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

 Marcus Aurelius 

The Impact of Consumerist Culture of Corporate Capitalist Countries: Undermined Individual Subjective Wellbeing

July 8th, 2020

The phrase “Work Buy Consume Die” precisely reflects the quintessence of capitalist economies. Since Capitalism emerged in the 17th century, it has become the most common economic system in the world. However, capitalist economies, which rely on purchasing “excessive things to ramp up demands in order to meet the high production of goods”, often flourish at the expense of the “fundamental human quest” for a meaningful life and wellbeing, according to Clark University professors Halina Brown and Philip Vergragt (Brown & Vergragt). By advocating that buying freely is a way of treating oneself with what one deserves, the government has pumped citizens’ desire for material products. This extreme ideology of consumerism of associating “quality of life” with “owning and accumulating more things” is especially prevalent in countries that embrace “American corporate capitalism” (Power), which, according to psychologist Shalom Schwartz, “encourages materialism more than other forms of capitalism” (Azar). It may seem counterintuitive that the higher income for some and access to leisure fail to improve individual subjective well-being, which comprises two factors: life-satisfaction and happiness. However, the verity is that consumerism fosters the addiction to economic growth and material gain, which undermines individual subjective well-being as it exacerbates social alienation and disparity.

It has long been established that social ties play crucial roles in humans’ lives and contribute to wellbeing. Nevertheless, this critical component has been gradually ousted by individualism associated with an imaginary identity that bases on the consumption of goods. In corporate capitalism, “an active and self-directed way of life is expected from the individual”, which “accelerates individualism” and “causes the undermining of traditional institutions” (Sointu). Today, mounting individualistic values are driving people to lose their community ties, which in turn bereave our source of happiness from real social interactions. As Yuval Noah Harari, a historian and philosopher who obtained his Ph.D. from Oxford University, reasons in his bestselling book Sapiens: A brief history of Humankind, the true happiness created by intrinsic relationships with other human beings are replaced by imaginary identity fostered by consumeristic standards (363). He explains this idea with a fathomable example: Madonna fans that purchase Madonna-related products constitute a consumer tribe, in which they identify themselves by shopping (Harari, 363). This identity is uncertain and imaginary since it only exists in humans’ collective imagination, just as a currency that will become useless when people do not associate it with monetary values. People that live in such imaginative communities no longer pursue actual relationships and social interactions with others; instead, they are preoccupied with the unsustainable pursuit of materials. The happiness they experience when getting the CD recently came out or obtaining the concert tickets of the front roll is limited and brief, because it depends on “external stimuli”, as the 14th Dalai Lama suggests (Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho). Thus, in order to maintain and enhance this fleeting joy, people consume endlessly to occupy their vacuous and insatiable desire that was once filled with “love, compassion, and generosity” toward the surrounding community (Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho). This omnipresent phenomenon of establishing identity based on consumption habits and interest inevitably leads to many social issues, including social alienation, which causes a lower level of subjective wellbeing.

America, as the leading corporate capitalist country and the nation with the highest nominal GDP, is experiencing “Spiritual Hunger in an Age of Plenty” as a result of social alienation (DeANGELIS). Today, people are living “around extrinsic goals” which are identified as “focusing on possessions, image, status and receiving rewards and raise” (DeANGELIS). This has been reported being associated with “greater unhappiness in relationships, poorer moods and more psychological problems” (DeANGELIS). This conclusion is also cooperated by a 2002 paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that people with strong materialistic goal orientations are less happy than those “low in materialism and high in prosocial values” (DeANGELIS). Knowing that “Social connections (including marriage and friendship) have been robustly linked with both happiness and good health” (Subramanian), the severity of consumerism undermining individual objective well-being is easily reasoned. In a series of studies conducted by psychologist Katherine Vohs, Ph.D., students who were “primed to think about neutral concepts or insufficient funds” are more helpful at “picking up spilled pencils”, more “generous” than those who were primed with wealth on their minds. On the other hand, those who were more materialistic are more “insular”; they preferred to “sit farther away from a colleague or work independently rather than in a team” (Azar). The sharp contrast of social behaviors of groups with different materialistic values illustrates the social-alienating effect of consumerism. To achieve the broader source of individual subjective wellbeing than just pleasure or the avoidance of pain means being “able to flourish, find meaning, and fulfill our potential”, which is “deeply affected by collective and social relationships” according to John Wiseman, a British author and Kathleen Brusher, a researcher for the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities Guide, (Wiseman & Brasher). Such correlation is also being acknowledged by researchers Julia Rohrer and her colleagues who found that people who wrote about adopting a social strategy for becoming happier spent more time with people, which resulted in increasing happiness than those who did not. This demonstrates the crucial connection between better subjective wellbeing and more social interactions. Thus, Consumerism, which alienates people from their close societies, is blocking consumers’ path toward better subjective wellbeing.

Corporate capitalist economic systems also exacerbate social inequality, which creates lower self-satisfaction and less happiness. This low self-esteem has been shown to stimulate more materialistic values of people, especially adultescents. Thus, a vicious cycle of consumerism is created between generations. Driven by mounting pressure to outperform their peers, people develop more dissatisfaction and become more pessimistic as Kate Harveston, a freelance journalist, reasons (Harveston). According to Wilkinson and Pickett, “US [has] both the highest score for social problems and the highest income inequality” (Brown & Vergragt). In America, about 20 percent of all children growing up in families below the poverty line, which provides them with unequal opportunities to develop their talents compared to their wealthier counterparts (Wright). Based on this statistic and his own knowledge, Eric Olin Wright, who was the 2012 President of the ASA and was educated in Harvard, Oxford, and Berkeley, fathoms that the issue lies in the “unequal access to the conditions to live a flourishing life” as a result of “insufficient income to live a culturally defined dignified level” (Wright). The pressures to consume, thus, result in a “damaged self-concept among low-income adolescents who cannot keep up with the latest trends”; consequently, they are less happy and satisfied (Sweeting). The cultural standard of social status based on the financial capability to consume makes the lower-income families more susceptible to the detrimental effect on subjective wellbeing.

The sheer magnitude of social disparity caused by corporate capitalistic economy evokes more intensive desire for economic growth and material gain that is devastating to future generations’ subjective wellbeing. In American studies, “more consumer-oriented 18-year-old people were found to have grown up in less advantageous socio-economic circumstances, 9-14-year-old with the highest levels of consumerism tended to be drawn from families with lower incomes” (Sweeting). Children with stronger desire for material products at such young ages, especially those from lower-income families, have shown to have low levels of future subjective wellbeing. Psychologists Carol Nickerson, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Norbert Schwarz, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan, Diene, and Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., of Princeton University conducted a study 19 years apart. This longitudinal study found that people who had “stronger financial aspirations” reported to be less satisfied with their lives than those who”[expressed] lower monetary desires” two decades later (DeANGELIS). Additional studies have also shown that consumerism has a positive association with “psychosomatic symptoms, depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem” of children from 9-13 years old (Sweeting). Consumerism that rises in capitalist countries, thus, has both direct (psychologically and emotionally) and indirect (futuristic) damages on individuals that result in less happy and satisfying lives.

Although many sociologists, economists, and psychologists have realized corporate capitalism causes lower subjective wellbeing for decades, their efforts of moving towards more cooperative economies had limited effects due to the relentless evolution of social practices toward “more complexity, more functionality, and more seemingly necessary uses” through “technological innovations[,] aggressive marketing and manipulative of desires” (Brown & Vergragt). Therefore, even when people are conscious of their abnormal addiction to consumption, their perceptions hardly translate into virtual actions. Capitalism has ingrained the image of consumerism as “normal, basic, and necessary” in people’s minds, forming a common culture that relies on the accumulation of possessions to fulfill spiritual vacancy (Brown & Vergragt).

A solution proposed by Sylvia Lorek and Doris Fuchs is to evolve social practices, technical regimes, and new business models through government policies to shift people’s motivation focus away from unlimited growth (Brown & Vergragt). However, those theories of social changes require “contestation between self-aware incumbents and challengers with specific agendas” (Brown & Vergragt). Unfortunately, there are no challengers: The US policies are in mutual support with large corporations, tying policymakers’ and their business interests together. And because the US focuses largely on “technological solutions and economic incentives for energy conservation” (Brown & Vergragt), it is unlikely for the government to directly challenge economic growth by proposing social policy reforms. The private sector is “similarly committed to growth and increased consumption”, making altercation of the current corporate capitalistic economy an action of conflicting interests (Brown & Vergragt). Thus, without competent and determined initiators, Lorek and Fuchs’ proposal is unviable. Another approach that has been implemented for years is the utilization of “ecological concerns or moral imperatives” to change societal behaviors by raising awareness of consumerism’s destructive impacts on the ecosystem and animals. Nevertheless, only minor progress has been made by a small number of the most dedicated and well-organized activist groups (Brown & Vergragt).

A more sustainable and effective solution is to shift the lifestyle preferences of the young generations by evoking their “fundamental strive for meaning and wellbeing in life” (Brown & Vergragt). This motivation has the power and constant presence that is “necessary for radical changes in people’s lifestyle choices and priorities”, which appeal to people’s environmental concern and morality (Brown & Vergragt). By targeting young teenagers, who are more receptive to changes, the approach is plausible of making greater progress. A massive survey conducted by Pew Research reflects that young generations are “connected, open to change, and racially and ethnically more diverse than any other American generation in history” (Brown & Vergragt). Thereby, focusing on adolescents is more practical than targeting all age groups as the two solutions mentioned above propose. Furthermore, the overall trend of millennial urbanization shown in a survey conducted by the Deputy Director for National Security Program of New America Foundation, combined with the expensive living expense in urban areas, is driving more people to engage in “collaborative, interdependent, and reciprocal lifestyles”, which contributes to wellbeing (Brown & Vergragt). Specifically, as people develop a sense of belonging in a community, they “engage in personal interactions, shorten distances, build trust and develop social identity” (not imaginary identities) instead of pursuing materialistic superiority (Brown & Vergragt). With the assistance of the socio-demographic trend of urbanization, the pursuit of well-being would consequently divert people’s tendency from “dependen[ding] on high-intensity private consumption” and focus more on human-network building. In their book Sharing Cities, Julian Agyeman and Duncan McLaren also argue that shared public spaces and social interactions can serve as “social equalizer[s]” to alleviate sharp social inequality (Agyeman). The effect of actively engaging in community interactions is demonstrated by New Orleans jazz funeral procession. By celebrating with neighbors instead of mourning alone, New Orleans achieves real happiness by coping with tragedies with public parades and dancing (Big Daddy’s Last Dance). Thus, more satisfied and fulfilled lives for many are achieved, showing that the vicious cycle of increasing consumerism can be impeded by focusing on tangible socialization.

Some critics point out that the potential conflicts and dissents caused by social inequality and diversification undermine the practicality of this solution. However, the nature of this approach is already addressing the problem. Disagreements caused by contradicting values and interests are inevitable. Nevertheless, as more young adults engage in collaborative social networks with the same pursuit of living a meaningful life and improving individual wellbeing, the overall trend of shifting cultural focus by exchanging different opinions among millennials leads to a positive outcome of a more equalized and closely-connected society. To increase citizens’ level of individual subjective wellbeing, countries with corporate capitalist systems need to promote the pursuit of meaningful life by encouraging physical collaboration within communities to alleviate the social alienation and disparity caused by the rampant consumerist culture.

Sources:

Agyeman, Julian. “Moving Beyond the Sharing Economy: The Case for ‘Sharing Cities’”. Julianagyeman, 10 Jul. 2014. https://julianagyeman.com/2014/07/10/beyond-sharing-economy-case-sharing-cities/. Accessed 28 Mar. 2020.

Azar, Beth. “How greed outstripped need.” Monitor on Psychology. vol.40, no.1, Jan. 2009, pp. 30. American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/01/consumerism. Accessed 13 Mar. 2020.

Big Daddy’s Last Dance: The Reverence and Revelry of a New Orleans Jazz Funeral Procession. Directed by Caitlin Greene and Jon Kasbe, 2016.

Brown, Halina S. & Vergragt, Philip. J. “From Consumerism to Wellbeing: Toward a Cultural Transition?” Journal of Cleaner, 22 Apr. 2015, pp.1-10. ResearchGate, doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.04.107. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.

Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho & Desmond Tutu. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016. Print.

DeANGELIS, Tori. “Consumerism and its discontents.” Monitor on Psychology, vol. 35, no. 6, Jun. 2004, pp. 52. American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun04/discontents. Accessed 15 Mar. 2020.

Harveston, Kate. “Study Finds Link Between Income Inequality, Consumerism and Size of Carbon Footprint.” MPN News, 1 Dec. 2017. https://www.mintpressnews.com/study-link-between-income-inequality-consumerism-size-carbon-footprint/235024/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2020.

Power, Nina. “Happiness has been consumed by capitalism.” The Guardian, 12 Apr. 2011. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/apr/12/happiness-capitalism. Accessed 4 Apr. 2020.

Sointu, Eeva. “The rise of an Ideal: tracing changing discourses of wellbeing.” The Sociological Review, vo. 53, no. 2, 31 May 2005, pp. 255-274. Wiley Online Library, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2005.00513.x. Accessed 15 March 2020.

Subramanian, S V, et al. “Covariation in the socioeconomic determinants of self-rated health and happiness: a multivariate multileveled analysis of individuals and communities in the USA.” J Epidemial Community Health, vol. 59, 2005, pp. 664-669. doi:10.1136/jech.2004.025742. Accessed 3 Apr. 2020.

Sweeting, Helen, et al. “Consumerism and well-being in early adolescence.” Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 15, no. 6, 2012, pp. 802-820. doi:10.1080/13676261.2012.685706. Accessed 30 Mar. 2020.

Wiseman, John & Brasher, Kathleen. “Community Wellbeing in an Unwell World: Trends, Challenges, and Possibilities.” Palgrave Macmillan Journals, vol. 29, no. 3, 2008, pp. 353–366. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40207196. Accessed 17 Mar. 2020.

Wright, Erick Olin. “Transforming Capitalism through Real Utopias.” American Sociological Association, 26 Dec. 2012, American Sociological review XX(X) 1-25, doi:10.1177/0003122412468882. Accessed 20 Mar. 2020.

Some Lifesaving Advice for those who are have CHILDREN that need to be engaged and entertained.

Surviving COVID-19 Series (#2)

Find a book they enjoy (all books listed are for age 4+)

  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    • A book about parental love. “This subtle masterpiece of story, writing, and art will have kids asking for repeated readings. Colorful language and a world of imagination make this wild adventure a fun learning experience.” – Mary Dixon Weidler
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
    • “Peter’s experiences illustrate the true joys of the holiday season found in being grateful for sharing time with family and friends. An all-star cast rounds out this sweet retelling of a classic.” – Emily Ashby
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    • “Pediatricians recommend that a child have a bedtime routine, something familiar and soothing that indicates the end of the play day and time for rest, and Goodnight Moon takes the doctor’s advice. The pace, rhythm, and repetition as the little bunny say goodnight to all the things in his house and beyond work to gently lull kids off to dreamland.” – Mary Dixon Weidler
  • Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
    • “There is just enough suspense and humor to hold a preschooler’s attention. The art (though black and white) pulls children into the story and makes events easy to understand and discuss.” – Wesley Sharpe
  • Little Bear (series) by Else Holmelund Minarek
    • “Gentle, conscientious, and family-oriented. The pace is perfect for young viewers, and the plot is appropriately concise…the characters’ utter involvement with nature is a welcome variance from the computer-and-robot themes that dominate so many cartoons for children.” – Joly Herman
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
    • “Distinguished author Jane Yolen has created a gentle, poetic story that lovingly depicts the special companionship of a young child and her father as well as humankind’s close relationship to the natural world. ” – Goodreads
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    • “Some see the tree’s selfless love of a boy as beautiful, even if it’s taken to an extreme. It’s easy to imagine the tree as a mature, patient mother dependably being there for her child throughout his life. But the tree can also be seen as a masochistic female who doesn’t know how to set limits.” – Peter Lewis
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
    • “The wolf presents his side of the story as the truth, but there’s also the distinct possibility that he’s lying. While adults will undoubtedly draw larger lessons from this razor-sharp fairy tale parody, kids will probably just think it’s funny.” – Peter Lewis
  • Tuesday by David Wiesner
    • “This delighted and amazed me. The first frames brought bubbles of joy flooding my system. What a joy and delight this was to read. Do you read a wordless picture book, or do you experience it? I didn’t know a thing about this. I really didn’t know that flying frogs could bring so much joy to me.” – Calista
  • Roald Dahl Collection
    • “The first-ever books I read when I was 9 years old and have loved reading ever since then I’m now 23, these are awesome books my favorite was/is James and the giant peach and George’s marvelous medicine.” – Beccy
  • https://time.com/100-best-childrens-books/
view of floating open book from stacked books in library

Make a Daily/Weekly Schedule with them to get ORGANIZED

  • Free templates for some insights:
Free Blank Templates for Daily Schedule, Chore Chart, Reward Chart ...
Summer Daily Schedule Template | Daily schedule template ...

Educational YouTube channels for self-exploration

  • Smithsonian Channel
    • Learn about hammerhead sharks, monkeys, WWII, 9/11 all in this channel, created by the high educational Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
  • The Brain Scoop
    • Created by Chicago’s Field Museum, the channel provides lots of fascinating content such as “Why Did King Tut Have a Flat Head?” and “The Human Biology Collection”.
  • Houston Zoo
    • Explore the animal realm. A virtual tour to the wild and learn along the way during the pandemic.
  • WordWorldPBS
    • A reputable and kid-friendly source with animated and animal-themed content that interests especially younger kids.
  • Sesame Street
    • Make learning entertaining for kids by studying with their favorite characters.
  • Ted-Ed
    • Challenge your kids with perplexing riddles, learn about nature, and ponder unsolved mysteries
  • Smart Girls
    • DIYs for older kids to independently entertain themselves with creativity and inspiration.
  • SoulPancake
    • Explore about art, culture, science, philosophy, etc.
  • SciShow
    • “Explore the unexpected.” Learn about gluten, cats’ purrs, extinction of dinosaurs, dog’s problem with chocolate.
  • It’s Okay to Be Smart
    • “All about science, the amazing universe we live in, and the pleasure of finding things out.”
  • https://www.learningliftoff.com/the-best-educational-youtube-channels-for-kids/
girl wearing black headphones

Connect with neighbors’ children

  • Some tips to get started:
https://www.scholastic.com/parents/school-success/learning-toolkit-blog/12-ways-to-teach-your-child-to-be-great-neighbor.html

Play Some Board Games

  • Acorn Soup (age 2+)
    • “Use ‘recipe cards’ to create a squirrel’s favorite soups, in the process working on matching and identification skills, counting and one-to-one correspondence, and fine motor prowess.”
  • Bears in Pairs (age 2+)
    • “Great game for toddlers and preschoolers because it involves absolutely no reading and can be played at three different levels of difficulty. Great for two players.”
  • The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game (age 3+)
    • “Gameplay involves color matching, turn-taking, and even builds fine motor control and hand-eye coordination thanks to the use of the little squirrel grabber.”
  • Monopoly Junior (age 5+)
    • “The best thing about these children’s take on the age-old classic is that there’s basically no way to make a bad move.”See where the luck leads you!
  • Twister (5+)
    • “It has all of the simplicity of the version we played as kids, but also a few additional twists that add laughs to the game.”
  • Chinese Checkers (age 5+)
    • “a neat classic, especially since it supports so many players yet is friendly to non-gamers”
  • Chess (age 7+)
    • “One of the great joys of chess is to sit back, relax, and review a game filled with subtle maneuvers or insanely wonderful tactics.”
assorted-color plastic toys

Have some FUN!

  • Interested in Cooking? Try out the series “Nailed It”
    • “Keep watching and you’ll see what sets Nailed It apart: the subtle, near brilliant way it pokes fun at cooking competitions — and itself.
  • Excited by war stories? Try out the show “Avatar: The Last Airbender”
    • “The show follows a young boy who is tasked with bringing balance to a world in war. The show featured an epic serialized story with heavy themes such as genocide and totalitarianism while maintaining playful humor. The characters are well-developed and have their own interesting arcs, and we get perhaps the best redemption story in decades.”
  • Love Superheroes? Check out the movies “PJ Masks”
    • “Follow three 6-year-olds who become superheroes at nighttime, and get together to fight crime as the titular superhero team, facing villains and having to work as a team to defeat them. PJ Masks show combines all the superheroes of a big-budget movie, with the vast imagination of its target demographic, resulting in a kid-friendly action-adventure show that’s both entertaining and an effective morality tale.”
  • Fascinated by science? Try out the show “The Magic School Bus”
    • “Every episode an elementary class would go out on a field trip led by the mysterious Ms. Frizzle, the catch being that their bus was magic and could send them on extraordinary adventures like going back in time to see dinosaurs or the classic fantastic voyage plot where they go inside a student’s body. “
  • Looking for something really fun? Must watch the series “Shaun the Sheep”
    • “A collection of claymation shorts, we follow the titular Shaun in a variety of wacky adventures that serve as a way to introduce younger audiences to the kind of wordless animation from the early days of the medium. Unlike other animated shows, Shaun the Sheep relies on pure visual storytelling, but don’t worry, the shorts easily grab your attention and don’t let go, with witty humor that appeals to both kids and the adults that will get the pop-culture references.”
  • https://collider.com/best-kids-shows-on-netflix/#green-eggs-and-ham
person holding remote pointing at TV

DIY & Handcrafts

white and red crew-neck shirt beside paint with brushes

Outdoor Fun!

four boy playing ball on green grass
Check out the other Surviving COVID-19 Series: 
- What You can do to Make the MOST out of this "Isolating" Pandemic
https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/99