No One Man Should Have All That Power

No one man should have all that power
The clock’s ticking, I just count the hours
Stop tripping, I’m tripping off the power

The great Kanye wasn’t wrong: power tripping ruins us. The world is a hierarchy of people, trying to obtain power whenever and wherever they can. We put each other into categories to benefit ourselves; selfishly and effortlessly. Power is dangerous; having too much of it can destroy a person (victim or villain). No one is limitless…not even Bradley Cooper.

Of course, while power has its benefits (money, status, fame, followers, and more), this blog post will be dedicated to how we need to relinquish our power of others. More specifically, this post will explore a subset of power: control.

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What do you do when you can’t get what you want? Do you stop and accept it for what it is? Or, do you keep trying to get what you want? If you’re anything like me, you’re tenacious, persistent and you do not let things go easily. Perhaps you are nothing like me and you love going with the flow. As the wise Drake would say “that’s the motto, YOLO.” Or, maybe you are just indifferent and could not care less about controlling the situations in your daily life. To each their own form of control, and to each their own coping mechanisms.

We do not have control over the hours in a day.

There are 24 hours in a day. That’s 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds of time that you cannot control. You cannot add the time in a day, nor can you press pause or rewind. You cannot go back in time, or make time go faster. You do not have a time-turner like Hermione Granger. You do not have a magic closet like in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you,” as Gandalf would say.

We do not have control over the weather.

As much as we would like to believe that meteorologists are the little people inside a weather machine, sadly the truth is that the weather is inevitable and uncontrollable. While climate change and global warming are two truths that we can semi-control, the weather is something that comes without anyone’s say. While we would love to believe that praying to the Sun Gods and Goddesses would make a difference, the weather is an almighty power that you cannot play with.

As an example, I won 4 VIP tickets to a beach club event today. However, when I woke up, it was raining and there was a risk of thunderstorms. I cancelled the event with my friends, but then it ended up being beautiful outside later on. The weather (while it messed with my feelings) did what it wanted to do. We cannot even have an accurate reading of the weather on the weather network. At any time, the weather can change on you. As much as I wanted to go to this event, I had to relinquish my control of the situation. I was frustrated and annoyed, but those two emotions go hand in hand with my lack of control over a situation. The only thing I CAN control in this situation is, not the weather, but my own emotions.

We do not have control over our own genetic makeup.

You, nor I, have any control over what we look like, internally or externally. Of course, we can control our weight (for the most part), and we can change our appearance, but ultimately, whether we are an endomorph or an ectomorph, with high or low metabolisms, this we cannot change or control. We cannot control diseases or disorders. The only thing that CAN control our genetic makeup is medication: science and medicine. You can get as angry as you want about your height, but that will not change (and, to be clear, drinking more milk will not help you grow). We have zero control over the way we are made. We need to learn to be more accepting of our bodies and of other people’s bodies. We have limited control of our bodies and of other people’s bodies. I cannot control when I get sick with the flu or a cold, and neither can you. No amount of Cold FX can change that. I won more tickets to for a VIP booth and 40oz bottle during Grand Prix weekend, but could not go because I was sick. Once again, as angry as I was, I could not control this. These things happen.

Side note: You might be thinking that I win a lot of contests, and you would be right. But, while I might win a ton, look at all of the events I couldn’t go to in June! Luck works in strange ways…

Do I have control over my recessive or dominant genes? No. I do, however, have control over the type of jeans that I buy, and I’m a big fan of “jeggings” (a mix of jeans and leggings)! We could argue over genetics and environment all day, every day, but what it comes down to is that we only have so much power over changing ourselves and our internal/external dynamics.

We do not have control over other people’s actions.

Don’t you hate it when someone cancels on you last minute? Do you absolutely abhor when someone rejects you or makes you feel sad? Do you get frustrated when someone does something out of context? Do you get angry when someone says something, but actually means something else?

This is completely normal (for whatever normal is, nowadays).

We may not be able to control other people, but we certainly can control our own thoughts, actions and behaviours.

Power comes from within, not from our ability to control others.

There’s a reason why good leaders are humble, empathetic and caring of others. They do not try to control them, but try to lead them to be the best they can be. As another example, a good teacher will not attempt to control their classroom or demand respect. A good teacher will demonstrate and lead by example; classroom management works best when the students respect you in return. When one person has too much power, they also risk losing it very quickly. Many leaders from many nations have gained power quickly and lost it just as fast. We often “trip” on the power we are given. We feel a rush of dopamine every time someone compliments us. We rise with the people who stand by us, but we also fall every time we put other people down. We have no control over the individuals who rise to power, but we do have control over what we do about it.

If you are ever in a position in which you have power and control over a group of people, try to think about what you will use this power for. If your goal is to achieve status and power over others, then you are using your power for the wrong reasons. Use your control to benefit others. Be a team leader, not a leader of one. Collective kindness is better than riding solo. Listen and care about your team. No one person should retain all the power in the world. Sharing is caring, people.

Here’s what we DO know:
1. Not all of us will be rich and famous, but we all have the power to do great things.
2. Not everyone will like us, and we have no control over whether they do or don’t.
3. Life is unpredictable: we never know what will happen, one day to the next.
4. We need to learn to accept what we cannot control. When things happen that are unexpected, we need to find ways to cope and learn to accept that which we cannot change.
5. Even if you are not a spontaneous person, you can learn to accept a plan you made that went awry. You can be the most organized person in the world and things might not go the way you planned, and this is not a result of something you did. Stop blaming yourself. Things happen. Let them.
6. We DO have control over our own thoughts, behaviors and actions. Sometimes we absolutely hate what other people do. We can’t change them, but we CAN change the way we see the situation.

In the end, accepting and relinquishing your power and control is hard. It will be easier for some, and very difficult for others. We should teach ourselves, sooner rather than later, that control should be internal rather than external. Once we learn to control our own emotions, the world will be much brighter than it looks right now.

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“Stop Laughing At Hannah.”

You’re just another bully. If you (yes, you) really think that making a meme out of a character that killed herself is the right way to have a laugh, then you’re completely missing the point. 

“13 Reasons Why” is a novel, written by Jay Asher. Adapted into a Netflix short-series, the story features Hannah, a young girl, who tells her story through 13 tapes, directed to the individuals who contributed (no matter the size of the contribution) to her eventual suicide.

After having read the novel several years ago, I decided I would try to watch the series. As an already emotional person, I am an easy-cryer and I empathize with the characters on my screen. The first few episodes I took at a slow stride; I started to really remember the social strife of the high school environment. The storyline, as I had remembered it, had remained the same, and I was really enjoying the series.

Until…

[Spoiler Alert.]

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…the last three episodes. I was devastated. Visually speaking, it was hard to watch. I cowered away from my television screen multiple times; hid under the blankets while my tears poured down my face. The rape scenes were horrifying. From all that I have learned from sexual education, rape is rape. Rape doesn’t need to be categorized or grouped into a category in which one person says “no” or “yes.” Rape is rape, regardless. Rape happens when someone does not consent; whether they explicitly say yes or no is of no interest. And, even then, consent may happen, but the person is always allowed to take that consent away, at any time. Consent cannot, and can never, happen if the person is unconscious or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Now, these concepts are debatable at times, depending on whether there is a steady relationship and mutual consent between two people; nonetheless, consensual sex cannot happen when under the influence, and cannot happen when one person does not consent, regardless of the words being used).

“She had it coming.”

Jessica was raped. Hannah was raped. And, by no other than Bryce, the rich jock in the popular crowd. Stereotyping aside: it really doesn’t matter who did the raping. It was rape, regardless. It’s tough to say rape out loud…but let’s be real here: on a screen, it doesn’t get any easier. Rape. There, I said it. This is no joke. This is not something we should be laughing about. Hannah was raped. She did not say “no” explicitly at the time, but she was petrified. She tried to push Bryce off of her, but with no success. She attempted to run out of the hot tub, but could not. So, she laid there: motionless, incapable of moving; her arms floated down and held on tight to the hot tub cement, unable to fight anymore.

No, my friends. These girls did not have it coming. Just because they flirt, or get drunk, or become a little too touchy, does NOT mean they deserve to be raped. And, it certainly doesn’t mean you can do anything to them if they do not consent. I have many friends who have told me horror stories about rape. I felt like my inner ear collapsed every time I heard those stories. Just like them, neither Hannah nor Jessica are at fault. The only person at fault is the one who rapes: the rapist.

I cringed during the last two episodes. I spilled tea all over my covers and tears rolled down my eyes as I watched Hannah onscreen. Alone, at 2am in the morning on a Sunday, I watched Hannah kill herself on Netflix. Needless to say I could not sleep afterwards. I watched as she pierced her skin with the razor blade and let the blood stream down her arms, slowly but surely. I watched as she cried and gasped for air. I watched as she turned pale as a ghost, and I watched while her mother ran into the bathroom and swooped her into her arms, praying for a miracle; praying for signs of life.

Visually-speaking, I almost threw up. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch on television or in film… and I have seen the Revenant. Regardless of the difficulty to keep my eyes pinned on Hannah, it was important to watch. It was important to not be shielded from the world and all of its stained and imperfect reality. This scenario, this suicide…these things happen, and they happen often. Bullying IS a thing. We have all experienced it in some way or another; even if you were never bullied, you have certainly seen these things happen in the hallways.

As a teacher, I recently taught my students about “power” and how it has many different interpretations. I read 85 articles, and heard about many different forms of power from my students. At least 15%, if not more, wrote about the power of bullying in social cliques. They wrote about their experiences with said power, and how it affects them daily. Bullying IS the reality of the situation.

Hannah did not kill herself because of one person. She didn’t choose to kill herself in a spur of the moment thought. She planned it. She took the time to think about what went wrong in her life. She wanted help. She asked for it. She wanted support. She wanted friends. She even went to her school counselor at the last minute, with the hope that he would help her. As a future counselor/therapist, I am in awe by the way he handled it. His phone was not turned off or on vibrate; he kept getting distracted, and would not fully pay attention to Hannah. This, in itself, angers me to no end, and it should upset you too. When we do not have the kind of support we need, and if we are struggling internally, then it is no wonder why some individuals would try to take matters into their own hands. We need a support system that helps us; not one that ignores us.

So, when we ignore Hannah’s story (fictional or not), and we make memes and pictures and quotes that might seem funny in the short-term, we ignore the bullying that happens all around us in the long-term. In accepting these “jokes,” we continue with the norm that it is “OK” to laugh at those who are in need. It is not up to us to say whether or not someone should be feeling bad. Something that may not be hurtful to you, may be hurtful to someone else; but, that does not make them “wrong” for feeling that way. We all have a right to our own emotions. We have a right to feel the way we do. And, we have a right to seek out a support system around us…one that does not shame us or make us feel worse.

So, I ask you to think twice before you post or “like” another one of the Hannah memes. When you see something like “Oh, you didn’t like me? Welcome to your tape” or “You spilled coffee on my new pants…Welcome to your tape,” avoid it. Be the kind of person who recognizes that in the long-term, if we make fun of a character like Hannah, we are also making fun of all those who are suffering. Making tapes was Hannah’s way of coping with her pain. It was not a plea for attention or a plot for revenge. It was never a vindictive act. It was an explanation: a way to show others that their words and actions mean more to someone than they may think.

We are all Hannah. We all have the capacity to feel as she felt. Let us ensure that “13 Reasons Why” does not go unnoticed. Let us try to change, one step at a time, to realize that the words that slip off our lips, and the actions from our bodies, make a difference.

Stop laughing at Hannah, because you might realize that you are laughing at yourself.

I Wait For No One, a poem

We all wait.

We wait for busses.
We wait for trains.
We wait for lovers.
We wait for gains.

We wait for losses.
We wait for life.
We wait for time.
We wait for strife.

I wait for you.
You wait for me.
I wait to give.
You wait to receive.

I’ve waited long.
I cannot wait forever.
So, here I stand.
It’s now or never.

A Teacher’s Experience at “We Day” Montreal (2017)

On a not-so-sunny, but not-so-cold, winter morning, I was asked to chaperone fifteen Grade 8 students on a trip to Théâtre St-Denis in Montreal. I happily accepted, as I had never been on a field trip as a student-teacher before and was intrigued to see how “We Day” would be organized and conducted.

We arrived at 8:30am; it was a spacious theatre, filled with fun bags awaiting each individual at their seat. It was great that the venue location was decent and next to a metro. (Note: each little bag consisted of a We Day volunteer booklet, a few coupons, a baking tool decorated with “WE,” among other tiny things, like stickers and pamphlets, to entice the audience.)

The POP/Dance music was blaring as soon as we all took our seats. Students from all over Montreal trailed in behind us, making their way to their soft, cushioned, black seats. Some private schools had even paid to reserve VIP seats at the front of the auditorium. Us? No…we “public schools” like to take a chance on finding seats. Where’s the thrill in already knowing where you’re going to sit, anyway? If there’s one thing I have to say about We Day, it’s that the DJ’s music was decent, relevant to modern day teenagers, and got the crowd excited.

On our tickets, it said the show would commence at 9:00am. But, no. it started at 9:43am…almost an hour late. Music aside, my students were bored in their seats, hoping that their phones would keep them awake, snap-chatting every moment to make it look more enjoyable. To be fair, I, too, was snap-chatting… 43 minutes of waiting can take a lot out of you, just like free healthcare can make you wait 6 hours in the emergency room to see a doctor. If we were comparable to patients, we were not very patient at all.

The Show Begins.

Everyone gets up out of their seats and starts clapping and “woo-ing” for the two Québécois hosts: one male and one female (supposedly popular individuals that I’ve never heard of until 9:43am). Everyone was so excited until they heard the hosts speak. Their English was piss-poor, almost incomprehensible, with tons of stuttering and bad word choices. As a French province, it is understandable that le français should be understood and spoken…but for an English “We Day” concert, this was so poorly done.

The Kielburgers

Otherwise known as Mark and Craig, these are the brothers who started the Me to We company back in the day. Craig came on-stage for a few minutes to hype up the crowd and spoke in an exuberant fashion. He told a brief story about how when he was 12 years old, he wanted to help people and so he started a company from the ground up. To be brutally honest, it was a very vague story and could have used more description. I would have liked to hear where he got the money to start the company and how he was distributing money today, company-wide, too. Regardless, it was a good first speech opening for the crowd.

The Teleprompter.

At 9:44am, just a minute after starting, a student sitting next to me poked me. She said: “Miss…I think the hosts are reading off a big black screen in the back.” I turned around and saw it. The teleprompter. That evil, stupid teleprompter. It must have been just as big as a home theatre screen, large enough to attach every single word from every single speech that would take place on that stage.

Immediately, I was thrown back. I felt a sense of anger partially consume me. As a former high school and college actress, memorizing my lines and conveying passion to my audience was always what I was taught to do, regardless of time or effort. Passion is everything; any entertainer knows that. If you are a performer and you don’t remember your lines, what are you supposed to do? People make mistakes, sure…but that’s why we give students cue-cards in oral presentations, for example. We allow them to make mistakes, to learn, and to remind themselves, to “cue” themselves, of their speech…not read the whole speech off their cue-cards. Otherwise, we teach people to rely on external resources and not to rely on what they have within themselves. (Note: Ironically, I had just taught a whole unit on motivational speeches and rants, and my grade ten students were just about to do their presentations…I definitely had some things to say to them when I got back to school the next week after seeing these “We Day” speeches.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t mind that the teleprompter was there. I don’t care that it existed. I was most bothered by the fact that every single person that went up on that stage (minus three individuals), read from the teleprompter…they read every single word. At one point in mid-morning, one of the hosts stopped speaking mid-sentence because the teleprompter froze. The other host looked at her and said, “well, it looks like we’re having some technical difficulties, folks. DJ play a song!” WHAT? Technical difficulties? No. A technical difficulty happens when the lights stop working, or when the sound goes wonky; a technical difficulty does NOT happen when you forget your lines, Mr. and Mrs. Host. In my opinion, it was very disappointing to witness this; to see two “apparently trained entertainers” cease speaking because they weren’t passionate enough to memorize their lines for a very big, Montreal-wide show.

The Speakers.

The hosts aside, the speakers had some interesting things to say. Some speakers came on stage and told some very personal, relevant stories. For a few examples, there was a man who spoke about religion and losing his son, a woman with vitilago who talked about the importance of difference and loving yourself, a young adult who was born missing a leg and an arm who explained how he still lives his life to the fullest by playing sports, a blind man who emphasized that we are all capable human beings, and, so on, so forth. While all of these speeches were lovely and received well by the audience, they were all “faked” in a sense. As mentioned before, only three speakers spoke with passion, without reading the teleprompter. Everyone else stood in one place on stage like a frozen stick in the winter-time, their eyes up front, clearly reading; no hand-gestures and no eye-contact with the audience. As a teacher, and as a student, I am very upset about this for a few reasons.

  1. If you are inviting thousands of students to your show and you are on stage without emotion, just reading your entire speech off the teleprompter, then you are sending a message to those students that it is OKAY to be unprepared, to be disorganized and to not have any passion for the words you speak.
  2. The whole concept of We Day is to help others, right? To take initiative in your community, to make baby steps, and to raise money to help people in distant lands, no? If this is what the message is, then it wasn’t stated to the audience. The only message we received loud and clear is that you are taking our money for this We Day show (that our students have fundraised for months) and you are giving us an impersonal, informal message in return: “you can succeed, if only you read.”

The We-Day Dance.

Okay, so while the speakers and the hosts pretty much read off the teleprompter and seemed quite fake, there were some good things about the morning. For instance, every 30 minutes or so, a group of dancers would come on stage and do the We Day dance with the audience. While the idea seemed cool and the audience got up from their seats to stretch and move, it only lasted one minute and a half each time. Personally, it would have been very fun to continue the dance and have more than four moves, because then the audience participation would have been that much higher.

Crowd Pleasers.

About 50 young adults were running around from the beginning, trying to get the crowd excited and to promote dancing and smiles. I’ve got to say, I was impressed. These crowd pleasers, who volunteered their time for the day, did a swell job. They genuinely cared about the students and made an effort to get the audience to participate. Funny enough, though, it was too good to be true… the crowd pleasers were also on their phones for a lot of the time, using snapchat and messaging their friends. I suppose that this is a downside to hiring young adults as volunteers. I guess they didn’t take it as seriously as we had hoped, but thankfully my students didn’t catch on. Maybe the We Day employers should have given these volunteers more than a piece of pizza for their pay.

The Entertainment

I was absolutely blown away by two artists: Jordan Smith, winner of the Voice 2015, and Tyler Shaw, a well-known Canadian pop singer. They each had the luxury to perform two songs each, but they were clearly the highlights of the We Day show. In my opinion, these two performers were the best things about We Day. Instead of calling it “We Day,” it should have been called a concert…because really, that’s what it was. The pros consisted of cool dance routines, amazing, but short, performances by these singers, and some decent, personal speeches emphasizing self-love and care. I would have liked to see more of THAT, because compared to the rest, there is no comparison. Also, Jordan Smith’s voice is angelic and I think we can all stay happy leaving this event because of him.

Propaganda/Advertising and Transitions

You can’t have We Day without consistent ads, it seems. Every time the hosts were on stage, they had another “thank you” to deliver to all of the companies that donate money: Ford, Jugo Juice, David’s Tea, Scene, Cineplex, RBC, and the list goes on and on, just like a really bad tune that you can’t get out of your head for the life of you. I wouldn’t have minded the ads, if not for the terrible placement of the “thank you’s” in the speeches. It didn’t transition well at all. They went from saying one thing, to not ending their speech, and re-directing the audience to a video or picture from an advertising company, and then bringing the message back to the speaker. Verrrrrry poor transitions, to say the least. If you’re going to advertise or promote something, at least do it RIGHT. Include it into your speech, somehow. Integrate it so that the audience doesn’t lose track of your thoughts.

Moreover, every 20-30 minutes or so, someone would come on-stage and remind everyone to use the hashtag #WeDayMontreal to show their dedication. So all of the students would get out their phones and post to Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, to show that they’re “part of a bigger movement.” While this is a good marketing strategy, I think it takes away from the show as a whole. In addition, the students aren’t told “why” they are posting the hashtags, they are just told to DO it. I am left with questions but no answers.

Merchandizing

Throughout the show, the speakers and the hosts kept campaigning and trying to sell merchandise to the students. “At the break, please go into the lobby and purchase some jewelry made by the lovely people of Kenya!” They show you a brief video about how women in Kenya can have the opportunity go to school if you just buy one bracelet. They do not tell students where ALL of the money goes or how it is distributed. Nothing is transparent about this company. The video is beautiful, but does not really capture reality. It looks like everyone is happy, that even in poverty, people can smile and keep on keepin’ on. This is not truth. This is not real. This is a North American philosophy, not just adopted by Me to We, but by all of us: we think we are better, stronger, richer, and happier than the Other. We think that by helping others, we benefit them…but really, we are only benefitting ourselves. We are reassuring ourselves that selfishness is at the heart of North American values. Selfishness has taken over. We should re-label this event to “I-Day,” or “Me-Day” because there really is no “We” involved here. However, We Day speakers are clever. They know that we are influenced by what we see and know, so showing us a video can “prove” that everyone is happier and will benefit if you buy a bracelet in the lobby. Interesting tactic, I’ve got to say… I wish my students weren’t so naive and would question where their money is going. As Allison Atkinson points out in her blog post critique, is We Day selling brands or inspiration? (Atkinson 2013). One of my students came back from intermission sporting a $15 dollar bracelet from the lobby. “Miss, don’t you love it?” she asked. I had to hold back my true response. First off, $15 for a bracelet is ridiculous. It better be silver if I’m spending that kind of money. Second off, where oh where is that money going? I’d like some more information before I buy something from the lobby. I even asked a few employees and they said they were 100% clear on the fact that all of the proceeds go to charities. I asked them where they found this information and they said they were “told.” Word of mouth isn’t enough. A simple “accountability” page on the Me to We website isn’t enough. Proof is needed.

Inclusivity and Diversity

It becomes problematic when Me to We identifies inclusivity and diversity as an action plan, but yet promotes contest winning and competition throughout their show. At certain times throughout the day, the DJs and hosts would come into the crowd and throw t-shirts. “WHO WANTS A WE-DAY T-SHIRT??!?!” They would ask. And, of course, everyone applauds and stands up, because really…who doesn’t love free stuff? The idea of things being “free” is also an issue. It becomes a concept that consumes us. Would we jump this high out of our seats to compete for something that we would have to pay for? No, absolutely not. “Free” things have become associated with “selfishness” and “competitiveness.” For example, my students were jumping up and down and not once did they receive a t-shirt. No. The t-shirt throwing was reserved specifically for the VIPs in the front row… no one had a chance. There was no real competition for the 2000 people in the audience. The t-shirts were never really “free” at all. This adds to my argument about the “fakeness” of the entire show – everything was “fixed” and set in stone. You know when you go to the horse races and you bet on a horse to win because he’s a world-class favorite? And, then, all of a sudden, the horse starts slowing down as he reaches the finish line and the horse right behind him wins? Well, that’s because the race was “fixed.” The owners of the horses made a deal before the race began. Just like this horse race, We Day was “fixed.” Even the students who would “win” prizes during the show would just stand up with a microphone and read off of the teleprompter. They were asked to “win” beforehand. I don’t know how else to express my discontent at this lack of diversity or inclusivity than to say “hmmph” in a loud, anti-aesthetic, displeasing sigh. It bothers me even more that all of the winners were white students. I mean, come on. Is this the Oscars from 2016 all over again? Just when you think the world is getting more diverse and accepting, something comes along and tells you otherwise.

Voluntourism

In a recent course taught at McGill University, we had one full week of discussions on the topic of “Me to We” as an organization and how it contributes to a concept called “voluntourism.” As someone who has travelled, worked abroad, and been on many organized trips, the concept of “voluntourism” is something that has been on my mind for a while now.

Voluntourism is very well defined by Iram Sarwar: “Wealthy western tourists who pay to go to developing countries to build schools and work in orphanages prevent local workers from much-needed jobs; waste the time and efforts of the institutions they travel with as they are constantly having to upgrade facilities and security; and vulnerable children who have often been abused or abandoned become attached to these tourists, who add to their trauma when they up and go home” (Sarwar 2014).

Not only does it become frightening for the foreign children, but “we” are contributing to the problem just as much as we think we are “helping” them. Thus, voluntourism is a way of life for students who think they are genuinely helping others abroad. It is a way for students to pay for trips, to end up at all-inclusive resorts and spend most of the day at a hotel, and then a few hours helping out the locals by picking up garbage, churning cement, building a house, or hanging out with the children of a community. Students are buying into everything that We Day tells them; they truly believe that they will actually make a difference by going on volunteer trips, when in reality, these trips only spend a short period of time actually “volunteering,” so to speak. I have also worked for a company that involves mini-volunteer days…but is this considered volunteering, then? Are we genuinely helping them? In addition, the students go on these trips only to post pics on Instagram/Facebook to show they are helping out a community and get “likes” or be liked by others. Taking pictures with little foreigners is problematic all on its own; it promotes an idea and a value that shouldn’t exist. It tells everyone that we are the helpers and they are the needy. It promotes difference in a way that isn’t actually “helping” anyone. These kids genuinely think that by raising money for Me to We that they are contributing to something good, but once again, they do not know where it is going or how they are helping.

In an article by David Jefferess called“The Me to We Social Enterprise,” he mentions that often times, we, as North American travelers, do not even know what we are contributing to when we pay to go “volunteer” abroad: in other words, when we go abroad on trips, such as “Me to We” volunteer trips (i.e. trips to Kenya), we tend to reinforce a consumer-capitalist culture in which we privilege ourselves over the other culture, even though we think we are helping them (Jefferess 2012). In addition, Jefferess discusses that companies like “Me to We” tend to privilege self-help and the self over all else. While it may look like the Me to We enterprise is out to help others, there is no real humanitarianism effort here.

I have so many questions about voluntourism that I never know where to start. What can I do as a teacher if my students go away for the holidays to the Caribbean or on a cruise ship? What can I do to instill a critique of the way we see the world? How can I ask my students to question the difference between wanting to help others abroad and the actual reality of voluntourism and our relationship to this cycle? When students go abroad to volunteer, they typically post about their journey on social media, ultimately posting pictures with children of the foreign land. How can I ask my students to think about the implications of social media and volunteering and what can I do in my lectures to get them to think about why they do these things? As a teacher, these are questions that have been on my mind for quite some time and yet, I still have no concrete answers. How can I make a difference in changing the Western values that have been adopted by my students?

The Day’s End

Just as the day started at 9:43am with a poor opening from the hosts, so it ended with a poor conclusion and a simple “goodbye and see you next year!” Right after Tyler Shaw finished his performance, the two hosts ran onto the stage and said “Thank you and have a great day!” What a poor finale. No wrap-up. No message. Nothing.

In addition, the day was supposed to end at 2:00pm, but instead ended at 1:00pm. It may seem as if one hour would make no difference, but what about the educators who ordered and scheduled busses to pick them up? What about the students who had notified their parents about where to meet them and at what time? What about the teachers who didn’t have anything planned for an hour? What about the train times and the bus times? This, in itself, was another flaw in the We Day design. We Day essentially ended their event early without realizing the implications and repercussions it would have on the teachers and the students.

My Take-Home Message

While my entire post may look like a giant critique for Me to We and We Day, it is important to note that I see both sides of the argument. If your message is to inspire others and to take initiative in your community, then that is a fine message to promote. It is vague enough that anyone can uniquely interpret that message in their own way. If your message is to promote social justice and humanitarianism by being a good person and putting others first, then, again, that message is clear and shows students that “helping” in general, is a good value to uphold. However, if your message is to volunteer abroad and to help the people from foreign communities, then this message needs to be reformed, edited and re-stated. We Day can indeed inspire individuals to encourage their own self-help and the help for others, but where it lacks is in its transparency for volunteering, and in its accountability for where, or who, the “money” goes to. The way I see it, We Day should just have been a concert with speakers that are passionate about inspiration and self-help. It isn’t a completely selfish organization; of course, their minds (and possibly their hearts) are in the right place…but we need to look at the effects, selfish or otherwise. We need to question what our students are “buying” into, merchandize, volunteering or otherwise. We need to question what kind of message is being embedded and molded into our students’ brains. We need to promote the “don’t believe everything you see or read” mentality; thus, we should teach our students that critical thinking is an important tool…especially for an event like We Day.

References

Atkinson, Allison. (2013). “A Teacher’s Critique of ‘We Day'” Retrieved from: https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2013/10/30/A-Teachers-Critique-of-We-Day/

Jefferess, D. (2012). The “Me to We” social enterprise: Global education as lifestyle brand. Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices. 6(1), 18-30.

Sarwar, Iram. (2014). “We Day to Me Day: The Damaging Effect of Voluntourism.” Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/iram-sarwar/voluntourism-travelling_b_4931814.html

Jungle of the Mind, a poem

I have never been a butterfly
Always have I existed as a charismatic caterpillar
Chasing her way through the jungle of life

I have never been a bird
My wondrous wings never fully developed
But, I hop along, regardless

I have never been a lion
Always a cub, always taken care of
I can’t roar, but I can cry louder than any other

I have never been truly human
I exist only in my mind, waiting for my force, my militia, to combat my fantasies
My brain remains all-powerful as I continue to pretend

The Mental Effects of Ghosting

Ghosting (noun)
1. When a person does not respond to you after you have been talking to them for a certain period of time (either online or meeting in person).
2. Said person sheds all responsibility for your relationship (whether you are friends, partners, or just dating).
3. A type of “ignoring” that comes with a shirking of responsibility or commitment.
4. Time length: usually after 72 hours (3 days) of no response/no talking, you’ll know if you’ve been ghosted (depending on context/scenario).

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Imagine this: You’ve been on a few dates with someone, and everything seems to be going well. You’re interested in seeing this person again, but all of a sudden….they’re gone. Disappeared. POOF! Presto/Change-O…GONE! It’s as if you never had a connection, as if you never went out in the first place. As if you are “nothing.”

The first thing you’ll think about is what YOU could have done wrong. Things will go through your mind, and you’ll question both sides and try to figure out how to fix it. Since humans are natural born problem-solvers, we are inclined to have things our way…to “fix” things when we don’t have control over a situation. This becomes problematic in SO many ways. Sometimes we’ll even go so far to chase after the person who left us. Ghosting can really leave a person feeling lost and confused, twisted and used (Shoutout to Crazy Town’s Butterfly lyrics – come maaa lady, come come maaa lady, you’re my butterfly, sugar, babyyy).

First off, no matter how many dates you’ve been on with the person, or even if you have just been talking online for a long time, ghosting is wrong and it is MEAN. Odds are it means that the person is too scared of commitment or afraid of confrontation. It has NOTHING to do with you and more to do with the person’s problems. Anonymity and hiding behind a phone is a generational thing. Back in the day, before the Millennial generation, since cell phones did not exist, people got in touch in different ways. They made every attempt to call, to be a part of a person’s life. Maybe ghosting existed in a different way back then, but right now, today, in our lives, ghosting is even more prevalent due to technology.

Second, ghosting actually affects the same brain regions as “rejection.” They say that you can feel better after taking a Tylenol because of the pain it causes (Psychology Today, 2015). The brain treats rejection like physical pain, specifically in the somatosensory cortex and in the amygdala, processor of emotions and fear (Independent News, 2014). It initiates the same feelings, the same emotions and the same amount of confusion. It causes a process of self-doubt and reduces one’s self-esteem. We blame ourselves for what another person does to us. In fact, we blame ourselves because we think that WE are the problem here.

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Third, if someone ghosts, we are inclined to try to text them even more, to get in touch with them…because the mind works that way. We always want what we can’t have, right? If a person is unavailable, it makes them even more “catchy” to our eyes. This really plays with our brains in all of the wrong ways for all of the wrong reasons.

I have interviewed 6 people in the last few days, all of whom have spoken to me about their feelings with regard to ghosting. Some have even told me that they’ve been in situations where their friends did this to them. Others have explained that they have been in relationships for months at a time and the partner decided to just “ditch,” without any explanation, without any text, email or phone call. This is unacceptable in any kind of relationship, even without a commitment. People NEED to start communicating better. If we don’t, this could get much worse. Even if a person is genuinely uninterested, I know I, myself, and many others would much more appreciate a text that SAYS that, rather than a disappearing act altogether.

We live in a generation where people of all ages, of all genders, think it is OKAY to be a ghost. It isn’t. It is wrong. It is disgusting. Psychologically, it can make a person re-think their entire dating process, and question their social lives. Ghosting isn’t just a noun or a verb, it’s a continuous disaster.

So, how do we “fix” this? How do we get people to recognize that ghosting isn’t fun? That it isn’t alright in any way, shape or form? Well…sadly, we can’t. The only thing we can do is to try to communicate as clearly and effectively as possible to the person we are with. Whether this person is your friend, your date, your partner, or anyone else, we need to be upfront. The more we communicate fairly and properly, the more other people will be inclined to do the same. Speak your mind in an appropriate manner. Just remember, if someone “ghosts” you, it says a lot more about that person than it does about you…and you wouldn’t want someone in your life who does that anyway! You deserve so much more respect than that in any relationship. If someone ghosts you, you just won the lottery, because no one needs a Ghoster in their life! (The only good ghosts are Casper [because he’s friendly], animated emoticons, ghosts in novels and in movies, and Patrick Swayze).

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Always bring it back to YOU and YOUR needs. If someone does this to you, then you pick yourself up, you get that dirt off your shoulder, and you recognize your own strength. Time heals all wounds (mostly)…Remember who YOU are. You are not a Ghoster. You are better than that. The other person wasn’t and doesn’t deserve your time or energy. Here’s a piece of advice: never run after someone who has made it clear to you that they don’t want you. If someone ghosts you, you have the complete right to do the same. Remain silent. Silence can often speak louder than any text, snap, phone call or email. Silence sends a message without having to actually send a message to reach out.

To sum up: Ghosting sucks. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t run after Ghosts. Keep communicating, people. That’s all you really CAN do.

P.S. Here’s a terrible joke: What’s the only way to get rid of Ghosts?  Just “Casperate” them! (Casper the Ghost + the verb ‘castrate’). Urgh. Terrible.

A Cloudy Enigma, a poem

I wake up with a vision as strong as a plane flying through the clouds above
Dusty, flying through uncharted territory
My throat tightens; my eyes water
Tears become the enemy as they drip down my face
I never know when this feeling will come
I can’t sleep; insomnia becomes me
I am paralyzed with fear, a fear that consumes me daily

I know not the difference between reality and illusion
Happiness is in a distant past, hidden from the dark present
What I want, I cannot have
And, what I have, I cannot want
An enigma is what I have become; an ode to my heart and brain

My body reacts; my mind hides, knowing the fight is over
Utopia doesn’t exist, but when I close my eyes, I see what could have been
My perception of reality has become an untruth, a lie, a fabrication

Behold, the girl who wakes up on clouds, drifting through the air
While the rest of the world stands still
Behold, the girl who cries for help
While the rest of the world stands still
Endings have never existed for me
Only continuations of doom and gloom, beginnings of new madnesses

And, so, it will continue to be a cloudy day, until it is no longer cloudy
Until the sky turns light blue like the ocean, my tears will come from the sea