Feeling Helpless

If you follow the news, you know that the situation in Aleppo has gotten far worse in the past few days. Syrians still in Eastern Aleppo are putting out what they believe might be their final messages, some with a last desperate plea for help, some with goodbyes, some with pure frustration.

 

Some, like the Professor in this video, express their disillusionment with the UN and the International community, and describe in more detail the despair and terror that they are currently facing.

 

His frustration is perfectly justified. I know that the political situation in Syria is a complicated clusterfuck of epic proportions. I know that there is no easy or obvious solution on how help those people. I know that the International community is not sitting on a perfectly logical and organized effort simply because they enjoy watching people die. But when you see those people suffer this way, when you feel for an instant a fraction of the terror that they must be facing every minute of every day, you can’t help but want to scream in frustration. Dammit there has to be something we can do! Women are committing suicide to avoid being raped, people are being executed in the streets, lit on fire and bombed into oblivion, how can we sit here and watch and do nothing to help these people!

This is why I would make a terrible world leader. I can’t be cold and pragmatic in the face of these stories, and I am sure I am not privy to a fraction of the situation in Syria that they are.

Upworthy has posted a list of 7 real things you can do to help the people of Aleppo. It is a predictable list: support Doctors without Borders and a variety of other charities that are helping, organize a protest, support refugees. These are all important things that everyone should do regardless, but it wont change the continuous bombing, the people trapped under the rubble, the mass executions in the streets. I hate this helplessness.

What more can we do as individuals other than donate what we can where we can, and try to keep talking about this enough so that the people who do have the power to do something about it are pressured into taking some kind of action. Whether it is taking in more refugees (depending on which country you live in, some countries are already taking in as many as they can possibly sustain), or coordinating with other world leaders and coming to a consensus as to what to do on a military level. But this hodge podge free-for-all bombs away and let’s see what happens has got to stop.

Not Just For Brexit

This video was made specifically due to the surge of racist outbursts that many people have reported in the UK immediately after Brexit. Silently ignoring racist attacks normalize and embolden racism, so these are 5 ways that you can do your part to combat the systemic problem.

 

This video may have been inspired by Brexit, but it certainly is not specific to the UK. Everyone around the world can, and should, take this advice.

Racism needs to be confronted and challenged at every step, if we are to have any hope of seeing things change for the better. This advice is something that most people can take with virtually no effort on their part, out the effect of it can be enormous.

It may seem stupid, but the bit about speaking quietly and calmly to the victim (in the circumstance that you do not feel you can actively confront the attacker safely) really spoke to me. While the color of my skin has never labelled me as a foreigner to casual encounters on public transport in all of the countries I have lived in, I definitely have been yelled at and intimidated by groups of men because of my gender. Having someone sit next to me, and talk to me, and give me someone else to focus on would have given me immense comfort in such situations. It would have made me feel far more safe, and far less threatened, if I knew that at least one person acknowledged what was happening, and showed me that they did not accept what was happening as normal. Such a simple act of kindness would have meant the world to me.

Please spread this video, and keep it in mind if you ever witness such aggression and violence targeted towards another human being. I hope those who are disgusted by racism really start to break their silence, and that in doing so, they show that they outnumber the loud and vile minority.

Of course, that is also making the assumption that there actually are more people who are disgusted by racism than there are people who would attack someone because of the color of their skin. Here’s hoping that assumption is true.

Pardon Edward Snowden

That Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, and one of if not the most important one of this generation, should go without saying. I see people say this, think this and take this for granted, and yet the man is still forced to hide abroad for the fear of being prosecuted as a traitor.

Amnesty International, the ACLU, and hundreds of activists have gotten together and started a campaign to actually address this, and ask Obama to do the right thing before leaving office.

You can sign the petition, write to the President and/or donate to the cause here. It is past time that Snowden be allowed to come home.

If you agree, please share this as far and wide as you can.

Not Again

Woke up this morning to find that yet another terrorist attack has hit Europe, this time in Nice, killing 84 people who were celebrating Bastille Day. No bombs or explosions this time, just a big truck speeding through the crowds on the promenade, running over as many people as possible until the French police were able to shoot the driver through the windscreen.

They’re changing their tactics, that’s for sure. The attack in Belgium showed them that bombs are not the best way to get the highest body count: you need serious firepower to kill large numbers of people, and I’m sure that explosives are getting harder and harder to come by. But a madman and a truck? That’s easy. And devastating.

Is this ever going to end? Are human beings ever going evolve to the point that they no longer try to find excuses to kill each other?

If you’re wondering how you can help, here’s a site that’s working on it. If you live in France, donating blood is crucial right now.

A Blast From The Past

I didn’t need the audio on when this video autoplayed on my facebook feed to tell that it was Wannabe by the Spice Girls. That’s one hell of a blast from the past! But now, this song has been revived to publicize an international campaign.

 

If you think about it, the original song wasn’t very specific about what the Spice Girls really really wanted. After repeating over and over again “I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want” the best they could come up with to answer that questions is “a zigazig ah”. In this campaign, they get down to the deets.

#WhatIReallyReallyWant? Well,

  • Quality Education for Girls
  • End Child Marriage
  • Equal Pay for Equal Work
  • More Women in Leadership
  • Gender Equality

So that’s what “zigazig ah” meant all along. Who knew?

All kidding aside, I’m liking this movement.

 

Yet Another Mass Shooting

I woke up this morning to find that, yesterday, there was the largest mass shooting in American history, claiming the lives of 50 people and wounding another 53. It is tragic. It is all the more tragic because it is unsurprising.

There is very little to say anymore when these things happen in the US. Mass shootings happen every day there, and more than one per day happened in 2015. This one happened on a much larger scale than usual, and it is for that reason that it is in the news. But what can those of us who watch this chaos from the outside really say about it? Guys, your gun laws are insane? How can you allow people to legally buy an AR-15 assault rifle and not expect this to happen? It has been said, over and over and over again, and I know that those of you who live in the US are more aware of it than anyone else. I’m not going to rant and rave on about gun control, as there is very little point. I will link to a site saying what you can do to help, in particular you can donate blood, if you live in the Orlando area.

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This Week in Zoology: The Slow Loris and Anthropocentrism

There’s no way around it, the slow loris is amazingly cute. Their giant eyes take advantage of our brain’s predisposition to fawn over pedomorphic features, which means that they have taken the internet by storm and, consequently, are the focal point of a roaring pet trade. And sure, I get it. They’re slow, cuddly, and affectionate. Who doesn’t want to tickle a slow loris and watch it lift it’s arms in enjoyment and give a little contented smile, amirite?

This video explains why everything I just said is a giant crock of shit.

 

The slow loris, albeit giving the impression of a passive, cuddly creature, can actually be quite aggressive. This is why their teeth need to be pulled out of their jaws before being sold as pets, because who needs to deal with a bad bite off of their pet loris, right?

And when you’re “tickling” them, they hate it. Slow lorises raise their arms over their heads when they want to collect poison in a pair of specialized glands near their elbows, in order to defend themselves, not because they like the “affection”.

Unfortunately, the popularity of slow loris “tickling” videos has led to a horrible pet trade, and there is a petition to try to make it stop. But it goes beyond that. These videos also need to stop going viral, because people need to realize that they are falling into the trap of anthropocentrism.

Empathy is, I think, one of if not the most important aspects of human emotion which enables us to function in a cooperative society. However, it also opens up a trap that too many of us fall right in to.

We, as humans, have a predisposition to project our behaviors onto other creatures. If a child raised its arms and smiled when someone was caressing its belly, it would be a sign of enjoyment. Therefore, when the slow loris does it, it means the same thing, right? OMG animals are like us in so many ways how cool is that!

This is a common trap, and only with awareness of anthropocentrism, can we avoid it.

Anthropocentrism is also something that is very important to consider when legislating on the issue of bioethics. For example, in college, our Professor explained to us that, most unfortunately, Zoologists are often not called in to consult on the drafting of animal rights legislation. About a decade ago, legislators in Ireland wanted to combat factory farming of chickens, which is great. However, they wanted to require chicken farms to provide 10 square meters per chicken. All animals need space to move around, right? And the more room to roam the better!

Here’s the problem: chickens are agoraphobic. If you give them a space which is too large and without places to hide, they freak out. Often, if they find a wall, they will pile on top of each other against it, often suffocating the poor chickens that wind up on the bottom. Also, while many breeds are too fat to fly, they are still programmed to try if they find themselves in an open space, causing them to fall over and break their legs. The road to suffering is paved with good intentions, and not being aware of their own anthropocentric tendencies, these legislators were about to do far more harm than good.

That does not mean that chickens are better off in tiny cages, obviously, but legislation needs to be drafted based on what is best for the animal, not based on what makes human beings feel better.

Before taking a position on what is best or not best for an animal, please do your research. And if you see viral videos of wild animals being kept in captivity and treated like children, look into it a little bit before sharing with exclamations of cute! They’re just like us!

South Africa: You Were Trailblazers, But It’s Not Enough

South Africa was the first country in the world to grant constitutional protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation. South Africa is also the only African nation (with the exception of Spanish and French overseas territories) to have legalized same-sex marriage. Given these protections of the LGBT community, which have existed for many years by now, it is so depressing that South Africa still struggles enormously with such vile hatred, corrective rape and murder of LGBT people.

A recent article in the BBC tries to raise awareness of the issue

[Read more…]

That’s The Most Ridiculous Thing I Have Ever Heard

It has recently come to my attention that, in the United States, it is not uncommon for children as young as 3 to be expected to represent themselves in immigration court.

Yes, I said 3

Yes, I said represent themselves. As in legally. As in without a lawyer.

There is a petition, please sign it, spread the word, counteract the injustice which disguises itself as stupidity.

Of course it goes well beyond stupidity. According to the ACLU

The U.S. ordered the deportation of almost 2,800 children who did not have counsel between July 2014 and August 2015. The Guardian reported at least 83 individuals were killed upon return when deported to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras between January 2014 and October 2015

It’s reprehensible. It breaks my heart.

No matter where you stand on the immigration debate, the idea that toddlers are capable of legally representing themselves is ludicrous.

Signal Boost: Please Help In Any Way You Can

I’ve just read something that made my stomach lurch. The ways that people can be so cruel to each other staggers me sometimes, especially when there is not a shred of remorse, or even understanding of how much suffering one has caused. (WARNING: graphic images if you follow these links).

A month ago, Tolbert, 21, and his boyfriend Anthony Gooden Jr., 23, were jolted out of sleep by the feeling of boiling water splashing across their torsos, faces and limbs. Gooden’s mother’s boyfriend, Martin Blackwell, stood over them, pouring the water, they say.

The 21-year-old must now wear compression garments 23 hours a day for the next two years, she wrote in an email to The Washington Post, and is attending weekly counseling and physical therapy sessions to deal with his emotional and physical scars. It’s difficult for him to go outside, because sunlight exacerbates the pain of his burns.

Gooden, who was burned even more severely, was in a medically-induced coma for several weeks, she said. According to his GoFundMe page, more than 60 percent of his body was burned, and he had to undergo skin graft surgery to repair damage to his face, neck, back, arms, chest and head.

And what does Martin Blackwell, this pathetic excuse for a human being have to say for himself?

“They were stuck together like two hot dogs … so I poured a little hot water on them and help them out,” he said to police, according to the incident report. “… They’ll be alright. It was just a little hot water.”

Fuck that piece of shit. I hope he gets the book thrown at him, federal hate crime laws and all.

In the meantime, please donate and spread the word.