Thoughts on the middle class and civic engagement

The middle class is a term that describes the broad group of people that lie between the poor and the rich. The middle class is important because it is the category that the majority of the population falls under. In a democracy the people have the power to elect representatives that form a governing body. It is essential for the middle class to have proper representation in government to ensure that the decisions made reflect the will of the people. The civic engagement of the middle class is absolutely vital to democracy because it keeps the masses happy.  The middle class needs to be educated and engaged in order for the country to thrive.

The middle class is endangered because access to higher education is becoming increasingly difficult to get, while the attitude towards the government has become very cynical across the middle class. Education beyond high school is becoming less and less affordable for middle class families.  This is concerning because many do not get the chance to take a civics class until they go to college. In my experience a civics class was not required for me to graduate from high school. I did take a required government class, however it focused more on the different types of governments (monarchy, democracy, communism) and the recent history behind american democracy.  Government class did not focus on the rights, responsibilities, and duties that come with being a citizen which is what civics class is. The lack of civic education deprives people, especially in the middle class, from realising the power they have when getting involved with the government.  Low civic engagement means that the needs of the people are not being met by the government. The natural reaction by many is to become overly cynical of the government because they feel that they are not being represented. This discourages people from voting altogether. How can you be represented if you do not vote? When the middle class does not vote, they are not being represented,  thus weakening democracy itself.

The solution lies in improving the access to civic education and promoting it. People need to know the importance of civic engagement. Public schools need to have a separate civics class or at the very minimum incorporate a greater emphasis on civics in the existing government classes. This would teach the next generation of how important civic engagement is.  They would be aware that being educated and engaged in government is the best way the will of the people will be represented. This should encourage them to vote and get involved leading to a strong and stable democracy. If you do not vote then you let someone else  make decisions for you and there is no guarantee that they have what is best in mind for you.

 

“Sneaker culture” Ft. Jacob Anderson

Hello, my name is Jacob Anderson and I’m going to talk about sneaker culture. it’s stupid. Although Diego is one of my best friends he is sort of a sneakerhead and I think it’s dumb. I mean there are people who wait for hours in line to pick up the new Jordans that drop. Not to mention how much some of these shoes cost. They are often not even brand new shoe designs. All companies like Nike have to do is to create new colorways of a past shoe and that gets people way too excited, especially Diego. It’s funny because he follows accounts on Instagram that post daily pictures of new colorways of the new “Jordan 31’s” that are going to release in a few hours. This guy can’t even afford them most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I like myself a nice pair of clean shoes from time to time but I just think it is kind of funny how others care so much about shoes. Although Diego doesn’t have that many pairs of nice shoes, he does have a few pairs that he is way too proud of.  He has his shoes on display on the wall of his room and it always cracks me up. I make fun of him about it all the time.

Diego:

Yeah, maybe I’ve fallen victim to sneaker culture a little bit, but its something I like.  I like shoes but they are not everything to me. I know that there are more important things in life. Its kind of sad how society puts so much pressure to look visually appealing in public and having the freshest kicks helps with that image.  I realize now that sneakers have kind of complicated history with sweatshop controversies and people who kill each other over the newest pair of Jordan’s. It is unfortunate when stuff like that happens and I think a materialistic thing like a shoe is never a good reason to exploit people or even take their lives.  The reason why I like shoes though is because I see them as a way to express myself. I like new Nike’s every now and then but I usually go for the ones that others don’t usually have. I like sneakers but they aren’t everything.  here’s a pic of my room so you guys can see what Jacob was talking about.

“DNA”

A couple of days ago I wrote about Logic and his song “killing spree”. I realized that although “Everybody” is an incredible album, I would be doing a disservice if I did not mention the masterpiece that is Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. I want to specifically talk about the track DNA and how it can bring some real emotion out of the listener.  The track is all about K-dot celebrating his black heritage while also criticizing it.  He begins with the lines ” I got royalty, got loyalty inside my DNA, Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA”  This is sort of contrasting statements that represent who Kendrick is. The first part of the line shows his loyalty to the people he surrounds himself with and vice versa and how royalty shows his pride in being black.  The second part of the line represents his family’s history with selling cocaine while highlighting the trouble that those from his family and community put themselves when associating themselves with drugs.  war and peace are supposed to show all of the gang violence he himself has witnessed throughout his life.  While he has spoken out about his dislike for gang violence and actively trying to bring unity and peace to the streets of Compton his music often describes darker times and all the tragedies that gang violence has put him through.  When I first listened to this track I remember thinking it was a banger without really paying attention to the lyrics and the message. However, after listening to it multiple times for the past month I really appreciate the fresh take on how K-dot deviates away from the common themes in rap. The most impressive part of the song is the beat switch. Kendrick samples a fox news clip in which Geraldo Rivera criticizes Kendricks lyrics from a previous album. Rivera says “This is why I say that hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.” After this quote is played in the DNA it seems to incinerate K-dot’s persona and convey a sense of rage to the listener. I literally get mad every time I listen to the second half of this song.  He goes off on Rivera, fox news, and oppressors in general with lines like “My DNA not for limitation, your DNA an abomination”.  His tone makes it clear that he is enraged not only at oppressors but also the oppressed by not doing more to fight against it.  I think it’s a creative way of showing his view of society. The rest of the album offers a differing tone than DNA and focuses more on himself rather than society. The overall message is that of needing to change yourself before being able to make a meaningful impact on society. 

OCO-3, CLARREO, DISCOVR’s

My favorite government agency definitely has to be NASA. I have been fascinated with everything NASA since visiting the Johnson space center in Houston when I was little and learning about the Apollo missions back in elementary school. I got to see a real Saturn V Rocket (Rocket used in the Apollo missions) in person that is located in Houston. I even have a little modelreplica on display in my room. With that fascination came curiosity about the different missions NASA actually does. they do so many things from the Apollo missions to the future Orion missions (mission to mars) all in striving to advance mankind. That being said I’ve tried to stay relatively quiet about the current political climate so far in this blog, however, I feel that I have to talk about what I just learned. The new budget plan proposed by Trump is going to make changes at NASA. At first, I didn’t sweat about it since the agency was only going to be getting a 0.8% budget cut. It was only when I took a closer look at what they were planning to cut that I took issue. 0.8% equates to about 150 million dollars which just so happens to be roughly the cost of three vital missions that monitor the earth and its climate. Let me introduce you to projects OCO-3, CLARREO pathfinder, and DISCOVR’s. OCO-3 (Orbiting Carbon Observatory) which is basically a high-tech spectrometer that measures the absorbance of the atmosphere. By calculating the absorbance OCO-3 is able to identify what gasses are coming into the atmosphere specifically carbon and carbon dioxide. Using absorbance readings it is able to take into account the greenhouse effect and record accurate readings on real time ground temperatures. CLARREO, a project that is a little more difficult to explain. The simplest explanation would be that it is a radiance and refractivity observatory whose mission is to produce highly accurate climate records to test climate projections in order to improve models and enable sound policy decisions. DISCOVR’s provides daily imagery collected by earth’s polychromatic imaging camera. It publishes daily images of the earth on the website. You can see all the current storms around the world from a global scale and I can say the images never disappoint. More importantly, it shows the visible effects of climate change, especially evident in the images of the major ice caps. Trump’s budget plan is planning to cut funding for all three of these projects.  I guess it comes at no surprise that this administration is trying so hard to get rid of evidence of climate change.  It is just frustrating to see so much effort put into denying climate change rather than actually doing something about it. I’ve  said it before and I will say it again, you cannot fix a problem by getting rid of the evidence. That is like getting your electric bill in the mail and just throwing it away.  If this budget passes it will be a real shame to see the NASA programs go. I will definitely miss DISCOVR the most because of the daily pictures of earth it provides.  Here are some pics from my trip to the Johnson space center in Houston over spring break.

“Killing Spree”

Logic recently released his third studio album “Everybody” on May 5th. I’ve been following this artist ever since his mixtapes which were released when I was in middle school. I have gravitated towards logic because he is the rapper that I relate to the most. In his most recent album, he takes on multiple personas to appeal to a variety of different people.  One song in particular named,  killing spree,  relates to ocularcentrism in a very contemporary way. Logic takes on the persona of a very media trained young male while also stepping out of that persona to criticize it in between verses. I do have to warn that hip hop can often be profane and this song is no exception. The chorus goes “Ass, titties, pussy, money, weed, everywhere I look a killing spree”. This is the persona speaking and it pokes fun at the repetitive themes trappers (trap music) use.  The persona becomes slightly aware in the next line ” All the things they wanted me to be are all the things I turned out to be”.  In this line, logic is taking a shot at society because of how materialistic it can be.  The first line is supposed to represent the misuse of social media in that it is all too often focused on drugs, sex, and money.  Not just in social media but in our music too. Trap music is insanely popular now and all about drugs, sex, and money. Logic persona is saying that because of everything he has seen in his media that is what he has become and what he likes. Logic is trying to make a statement that this is a misuse of social media. In the first verse, he steps out of the persona and criticizes the common user on social media. ” Hashtag pray for this pray for that, but you ain’t doing shit get away from that”. This is aimed at those who talk a lot of game on twitter about being an activist in a social cause, but their activism goes only as far as their tweet with a hashtag.  Logic then goes on to attack stereotypes with the line “blame it on a black, blame it on a white, blame it on a gun, blame it on a Muslim.  Everyone wanna blame him, blame her, just blame it on the muthafucka killing everyone” This line points out how people tend to generalize and stereotype once tragedy goes viral. What he is saying is that rather than blaming races, religions, or any other group of people, we need to just blame that guy that committed the crime. When stereotypes spread they put unfair and even crippling assumptions on races, religions, or any other groups of people. The most important line of the track comes when Logic says “Everybody looking for the meaning of life through a cell phone screen” because it is so relatable. It’s  just the truth. Myself included. Our lives are through our phones. Although I think phones have really helped us in many ways to stay connected it has also disconnected us in many ways.  This is just a taste of the themes this song and album have to offer. I think this song is a really creative way to show the current state of society in terms of social media and not to mention the beat goes hard. The album everybody is easily one of my favorite albums because of the concept behind it. It packs in features that include Neil Degrasse Tyson! Even the album cover is eye catching, it is inspired by the “The wedding at Cana” which is located at the Louvre in Paris. It is well worth the listen.

Double Consciousness

After reading Double Consciousness by W.E.B Dubois I noticed how much I related to this idea of viewing yourself from the perspective of others. Drawing back to what I have learned in sociology, looking at yourself is a way for anybody no matter what race to keep themselves grounded or humble. However, the trick is to not let this “vision” suppress you into becoming someone you are not. And what Debois is saying is that this is much more difficult for the black man or woman. I definitely agree with the concept of double consciousness because I experience it every day. This is not to say that I experience anywhere close to the amount of discrimination Dubois did but I am aware that I look different than the majority. I use this “self-surveillance” to sort of fit into society. I remember back in elementary school when I had first discovered that my peers thought of me a little differently. We were in social studies learning about the race riots, the civil rights movement, and the Jim Crow laws. Right after class my friend came up to me, hugged me and said “aren’t you glad that you are allowed to go to this school with me now”. I responded with a simple “yeah man”, but in my head, I was like “Oh my god, I look different than everyone else in my grade”. I did not even realize until that day but I was literally the only dark kid in the fourth grade at Clegern elementary. The truth was that I was going to a choice school in Edmond, Oklahoma that did not have that much diversity besides myself and like one other kid in 1st grade. This discovery didn’t really bother me but it did cause me to become aware of who I am and what I look like from there on. In other words, I started viewing myself from the perspective of others in order to fit in. Being different didn’t stop me from being happy in fact sometimes it opened up new opportunities for me. I love the expression on peoples faces when I tell them that I’m a half-Indian half-Mexican kid that was raised in Oklahoma.  But it is important to note for every time being different has gone right for me it, it has gone wrong a hundred times over for people before me.  Sometimes it really is not about race at all in that it just comes down to people who like white and people who don’t. Personally, I don’t really know exactly where I fall on the race spectrum but I do know that I am neither black or white just different.

Dirty Money

I have tried to keep an open mind about our current president ever since he took over, but I think I have finally reached my limit.  Now I know I am not the only one who thinks it is alarming that Trump has not released his tax returns even up until this day. He is the only major party nominee in the last 40 years not to do so. While I thought this was shady, I did not have a plausible suspicion or theory to why he has not released his tax returns, so I never spoke out about it. But recently the Trump administration fired 46 US attorneys that were held over from the Obama administration. Now it is normal for new presidents to replace attorneys from past presidents, what made it different this time was the way in which it was carried out. The attorneys were only given a few hours notice that they were going to be fired. Usually, when former presidents like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had done the same thing, the dismissed attorneys were allowed more than a few hours notice before they had to clear out their offices. So the obvious question is why so fast? I have a theory that answers this question but it is a little convoluted. It is certainly plausible, just stay with me. Enter in Deutsche Bank, a bank that was recently found to be money laundering for around 4 years from 2011 to 2015. This bank facilitated the laundering of about 10 billion dollars worth of dirty money out of Russia. They way they did it for so long without being detected was by moving money through the stock market. The scheme involved real stock in real companies but conducted fake deals meaning that both the buyer and the seller were in on it or in many cases the same person. They would use rubles (Russian currency) to buy stock in a company and then outside of Russia sell the same stock and get paid in dollars. This was so large scale that it was easy to overlook the sales of these stocks as normal stock market behavior. However recently they were finally caught and had to pay a large fine. It was a 630 million dollar fine Deutsche bank had to pay over Russian money laundering claims. They funny thing is that on the exact same day that Deutsche bank fine was announced their stock price went up. That’s right I said up. Who knows the exact reason of why it went up, maybe they had a good day or maybe investors were relieved to only have to pay 600 million dollars out of 10 billion laundered. That’s kind of like the Atm fees that you are charged when withdrawing cash. The thing is in theory these investors should still be worried because this is only the settlement the bank reached with New York State.  The federal case is still open and those generally tend to cost more than 630 million. For example, the same bank was indicted earlier in the year on an inquiry into their mortgage practices leading up to the housing market collapse. The fine they had to pay there was in the 7 billion range. They only problem here is that the person pursuing the federal case against Deutsche bank is Preet Bharara. A U.S attorney included in the 46 fired by the trump administration last Friday, March 10th. Hmm? I really don’t know know why Trump has not released his tax returns yet. And yes I know I am making bold claims here but that thats really all we are left with.  What are we supposed to do? Give him the benefit of the doubt? We won’t know the truth until he releases his full tax returns or until we finally learn the real reason why he has hidden them.

Clickbait

I recently read an article by the Wall Street Journal that bothered me. The article was about youtube’s most popular content creator Pewdiepie and his supposed “anti-Semitic views”. It is important to note that Pewdiepie has over 53 million subscribers including me and I have been watching his videos off and on for the past few years.   For the past week, Pewdiepie has been the center of controversy in the youtube community because of the Wall Street Journal article that condemns his recent videos which they claim to have “anti-Semitic themes”.  When I first saw this article title I quickly dismissed thinking it was another one of those clickbait pieces but then  I saw who published it. I was shocked because WSJ is supposed to be a well respected and trusted source for news that is relevant. I, of course, had to click on the article and find out what exactly they meant. Basically, WSJ took bits and pieces from recent Pewdiepie videos and used them to portray him as anti-Semitic. If you watch Pewdipie’s videos, like me, you would know that Pewdiepie has an unfiltered sense of humor that is usually not safe for work, but I feel is the reason why he appeals to millions of people across the internet. You can see that his jokes are clearly taken out of context and used to portray him in a negative light. Another thing to point out is that in the title they use “Anti-semitic posts” rather than “Anti-Semitic jokes” and give the reader the assumption that Pewdiepie condones hateful speech. This feels strange because it really does seem like the wall street journal is making a story out of nothing. But why are they attacking Pewdiepie? My theory is that mainstream media outlets such as WSJ are not too fond of internet personalities or in this case YouTubers because they fear them. They fear YouTubers because they have such a large audience, thus granting them a large influence. What is interesting is that the mainstream media usually portray internet stars in one of two ways. They either find any dirt they can on YouTubers and stretch it out for a scandalous story or they just acknowledge how much money YouTubers make without really acknowledging their content. The Wall Street Journal’s act of slander is troublesome because their article pushed Disney and YouTube to quickly terminate their contract with Pewdiepie. I will say that Pewdiepie will be fine because he has a large fanbase that sees right through this article but the unfortunate consequence of this is how YouTube canceled it’s series that starred Pewdiepie.  It is unfortunate because that is a series that hundreds of people beside Pewdiepie have been working on for a while and just like that they cancel it and are out of a job. Now before people start comparing Pewdiepie’s situation to Donald Trump, I want to say that they are two completely different situations. Pewdiepie is an entertainer with a massive audience who happened to make a mistake when choosing his jokes. Trump is the President of the USA and should not be lying and contradicting his own statements. I’m not saying that Pewdiepie is blameless here.  He probably should not have used anti-Semitic jokes in the first place, especially in this political climate. We may have free speech but there are always consequences for what we say. Pewdiepie acknowledges that he made a mistake but this time the WSJ blew it way out of proportion to an absurd level.  I guess my only advice to Pewdiepie going forward is to know your audience and choose your humor carefully. Of course, that is much easier said than done especially considering he has over 53 million subscribers. This is another example of why clickbait is dangerous. It can ruin someone’s reputation or even elect a puppet to the presidency, but more on that later.

Perception vs. Reality

For the past few months I have been binge watching a show called House of Cards on Netflix. I recently finished the series this past weekend. This is one of the most thought provoking shows I have ever watched and is a perfect example of perception versus reality. House of cards follows U.S. Rep Frank Underwood and his crooked path to the presidency. He is a ruthless politician that will put ethics and morals aside to achieve his goals. What makes this show interesting is how he can get away with some shady activity and still keep a good public image. At first i thought this show was exaggerating and creating unrealistic situations for dramatic purposes. However the more I kept watching the more plausible it all started to seem. It made me think that this shows depiction of Washington may not be too far from reality. This show is all about how politicians further their political careers by means that many would consider corrupt while continuing to be seen as positive figures to the public. House of Cards is one of my favorites because it exhibits how perception can be far removed from reality.

First Impressions

 

The idea of first impressions is a really interesting one to me.  I always try to make a good first impression when meeting someone new. In my experience, the first impression I had has never defined what type of person they are. A good friend that I met last semester made a strange first impression on me.  The only reason we became friends was because we were both fans of the premier league. The only problem was that he was a Tottenham fan and I am a Liverpool fan. These two teams aren’t very fond of each other and if we lived in England, we probably wouldn’t be too fond of each other either.  The thing is we live here in Norman and soccer fans are still not always that common. I think because of that we became friends. Now when we watch premier league games we always root against each other’s teams. It is our kind of friendly competition.  When Emmerson first told me he was a spurs fan I immediately made a judgment about who he was. It’s funny how him being a fan of Tottenham altered my perception of his personality. Even though that perception did not turn out to be true, I found it interesting