The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb reminds us that we are not powerless in the face of issues ranging from racism to starvation. Several authors in this piece reveal how many of us have accepted that we have no power to change what we believe is morally wrong in the world. Howard Zinn emphasizes how this negative belief in powerlessness has become “a self-fulfilling prophecy” (p.70). One can look at the world as a cruel and evil place, but history has shown us that pure evil cannot sustain itself. The reason why no one has conquered the world is that people will go against repression. I truly believe that Zinn’s argument is true because if we admit defeat, we will have given up on our humanity. Despite the pain and suffering, there is beauty in our world. Each moment where someone has died, someone new has been born in the world. Thus, it is our collective responsibility to uphold values of justice and respect each day.
This reading reminded me of how we can be virtuous right now. During this unprecedented time of quarantine, each of us has been encouraged and ordered to stay at home. While many of us are not nurses or doctors caring for COVID-19 patients, we can contribute to the effort of reducing the transmission of this virus. This pandemic is not a war we can ignore in the news or a natural disaster affecting a small nation, it is a global issue. The coronavirus has shown us the best and worst parts of humanity. I think it is better to remember the positive parts of humanity. So far, people have donated food, money, and resources to those in need for this virus. This can be seen in the viral donation campaign launched by Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old World War II veteran in England. Captain Moore managed to walk a hundred laps in his garden to generate money for the National Health Service and now is at the enormous sum of £14 million. This story shows that we are not powerless because we can do something small and even something big. Compassion and love for humankind can overcome many issues we believe are impossible. I think we shouldn’t count out humankind in the journey for what is right!
Out of all the campaign ads, Law and Order by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey was the best. The reason is that this was not a regular political ad attacking the campaign of an opponent. This ad shows Humphrey being asked about obtaining respect from America if he becomes president. This ad was logically sound and precise because it did not snip together random images of the American society. It showed a candidate actually defending their intentions and goals for presidency. Humphrey’s words might have sounded revolutionary in 1968, but they sound normal by today’s standards. He argued that we shouldn’t seek to increase convictions in America and build bigger jails. Despite the social and political violence occurring during the 1960’s, this argument rings true today. Humphrey’s ad also emphasizes his belief in providing support for American citizens such as social welfare. He stands in stark contrast to the restrictive and untrustworthy stance that Nixon has towards the American public. His critique of Nixon is not based on insults or offensive remarks, but on ideological differences. This public campaign is a mature approach that many modern campaigns today fail to follow.
This ad made me think about our system of criminal justice in the United States. I think Humphrey’s comment in this 1968 ad is startling; “you’re not going to make this a better America just because you build more jails.” We failed to listen to this advice and now we have the most amount of people incarcerated per capita in the world. As everyone has seen, jailing more individuals has not decreased the issues we have in society. This can be seen in the rise of crime throughout the 20th century. I agree with Humphrey’s perspective about rehabilitation because locking people up doesn’t completely restore justice. This can be seen in people who are habitual offenders. Much of the neglect and abuse that occurs in prison only creates contempt among prisoners. Our prison system frequently violates basic human rights in order to exert unnecessary force on vulnerable people. If individuals are viewed as forever unfit to live in society, what is the point of reformation and rehabilitation? There is no incentive for prisoners to self-improve and atone for one’s mistakes. Thus, Humphrey’s remarks on reforming criminal justice are morally sound and I respect him because of this.
My favorite ad in Teays’ Second Thoughts is the “Got Milk?” campaign poster with NBA all-star Steve Nash. I remember how good Nash was in the NBA and how he was a favorite player among many young fans. This poster captivated my attention because I remember these posters adorned in the halls of middle school. Pro-athletes, musicians, and celebrities were always on these posters with the famous milk mustache. Although famous individuals had no expertise on the effect of drinking milk daily, everyone is fascinated by what their idols do. Young kids look up to role models in whatever they are passionate in. Kids want to be their hero and they will try to follow their hero’s footsteps. The next time a parent urges their kid to drink a glass of milk after dinner, they might be more inclined to because of the “Got Milk?” posters.
The intent behind these posters was smart since they blended into whatever environment they were put in. In schools, these posters never looked out of the ordinary. It can be argued that Got Milk is one of the arguably most successful adverting campaigns ever. I was interested in the origins of Got Milk and I discovered that it was a campaign created by the Californian Dairy Industry. The purpose of this ad was to make sure that Americans were consuming a sufficient amount of milk to sustain the milk industry. Ironically, milk consumption decreased nationally among Americans during the time of this campaign. The reason was that not having milk was not necessarily an issue. Some people chose to drink it more and others did not. This campaign brought awareness, but it did not encourage people to buy milk in greater quantities. Still, “Got Milk?” is so recognizable among Americans because of its widespread use in popular culture throughout the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
In Questioning leadership: an integrative model by Michael Harvey, I was interested by the question “Where are We?”. When thinking of leaders and followers, many of us don’t necessarily consider our present situation. The example of 9/11 was impactful because it marked a transformative change in the U.S. and across the world. People, who we thought could not cause harm, did cause harm in a manner untraditional to us. No one considered that a hijacker of a plane was interested in islamic extremism. This event showed the common interests and values that all American’s had; however, it showed that many unethical activities would follow. The torture of people believed to have a connection with Al-Qaeda or even the killing of innocent citizens in Iraq. 9/11 brought America together under one flag, but American citizens allowed moral impermissible actions of their political and military leaders.
The question “Do we understand?” also struck me because of the impact of a leader using “a sense of personal connection” (pg.220) in our society. We all want leaders who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and more. If a leader is a representative from our group, our goals and values can be achieved. The interactions that occur between leaders and followers are important to creating a shared identity. FDR was so widely loved by Americans because his followers understood him. He saw the livelihood of Americans as one of the chief responsibilities of the U.S. government. This could be seen in the creation of the New Deal, which opened up job opportunities following the Great Depression. Although FDR was Harvard educated, his academic prowess didn’t impinge on his ability to serve the American people. It is important that followers can see themselves in their leader and that this gap in ability is not too far. Leaders should not be outsiders of the group, but rather insiders. Leaders are the most successful and ethical when they realize that they do not stand above their followers, but for them.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is something that I have read quite extensively when I took AP U.S. History during my junior year. Zinn’s work as a historian has often showed us that we portray world history through rose-colored glasses. This chapter on Columbus was fascinating as it revealed the violence and brutality of the Spaniards. Columbus and his men killed many Native Americans for their ultimate goal of discovering gold. What goes unnoticed in many history textbooks is the Native American’s perspective of life. Although they were viewed to be inferior by European settlers, their civilization was much more harmonious and advanced. They achieved peace with tribes, women were respected, food was distributed to those who needed it, and more. The European’s desire for money and power destroyed many native civilizations across the Americas. The efforts of colonialism is the reason why there are so few ancestors left today. This reading made me think about the perspective in history we have when we reference oppressors or victims in a certain event. This can have a powerful impact on how marginalized groups of power are viewed centuries later.
From Intent to Effect: Richmond, Virginia, and the Protracted Struggle for Voting Rights, 1965–1977 by Julian Hayter was an interesting read. In my PPEL class last semester, we examined the past and present voting structures in the United States, especially in Virginia. Although laws such as the Voting Rights Act were meant to make sure African Americans could exercise their right to vote, the federal government could not control the nefarious actions of southern states. I was not surprised by the actions of city officials in Richmond during the 60’s and 70’s because similar discrimination still occurs in the city today. What I learnt in my PPEL class is that it has become increasingly difficult to prove ‘discriminatory intent’. This can be seen in recent attempts to stop gerrymandering efforts in North Carolina’s congressional seats. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court has improved voting structure across states, they require more evidence to federally intervene now. My takeaway from this reading is that southern counties such as Richmond can only stop black voter dilution if they can legally prove discriminatory intent. Thus, political power is still much in the hands of the same southern elites today.
In Mystery and Meaning: Ambiguity and the Perception of Leaders, Heroes and Villains by Goethals and Allison, I was stuck by the cues society uses to evaluate or judge leaders. This reading articulates that there are four cues: language, voice, appearance, and movement. This was very telling because many of us try to determine a person’s inner character by their visual appearance. Their mention of the 1960 U.S. Presidential debate with John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon exemplifies this. We looked at and studied this debate in Dr. Hoyt’s LDST 101 section. At the time, I was very intrigued by people’s judgement of each candidate through either the radio or the TV. If one was listening on the radio, one would think that Nixon won. However, if one was watching it live then it appeared that Kennedy won. Goethals and Allison explain that Kennedy’s success in the TV medium form of the debate was not due to his young or charming looks. Rather, they argued it was “the dynamism and fluidity with which he moved” (Goethals & Allison pg.23). The radio could not show the weird or uncomfortable movements Nixon was making on screen. Following the debate, President Kennedy is now viewed historically as a charismatic leader because the general public saw that his movement and demeanor could be attributed to a positive ‘leader schema’.
This attachment we have to a charismatic or strong leader has had powerful effects in our national or local elections. During the bitter 2016 National Presidential Election, Americans were facing two polarizing candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. While Trump made many brutish and unforgiving remarks during his campaign, many Republican Americans were captivated by his rhetoric and language. Donald Trump was willing to say many things a U.S. Presidential candidate would not have said. People were impressed by his undeterred resolve to lead Washington without the cumbersome bureaucratic structure. Although many Americans were shocked about Trump’s Presidential victory, he was able to garner votes because of the public’s belief of his charismatic qualities. Although this election has passed, the American people must be more conscious if they are voting for a politician’s plans or his outer cues. By using leadership studies, we know that leadership comes in many different forms and traits. Although we may want a charismatic leader, we really need someone who is strongly goal-oriented and is willing to achieve goals ethically. Hopefully, the American people can better scrutinize the leadership qualities and cues of the 2020 candidates for this upcoming election.
Does photographing a moment steal the experience from you? (Erin Sullivan)
In this talk, Erin Sullivan spoke of her experiences of being a professional photographer. These included amazing landscape shots from across the globe, close images of wild animals, and even constellations free of light pollution. Not everyone can be professional photographers, but the advancement of phone cameras has given access to billions of people. Each person can capture a moment and have it stored for later. While her work took her to so many places, Sullivan began to realize the effect on her enjoyment of always having her camera out. She saw a similar trend in tourists. People traveling just to take their own photo of a landmark and only experiencing it for more than a couple of minutes. Sullivan argues that social media has increased this artificial impulse to take a photo of everything deemed sharable. Capturing memories has not become something to share with family, but something to receive likes on. She claims that she too had become enveloped in this as we all want to capture our own perspective of some moment. Sullivan’s main point is that sometimes we should leave our cameras behind, and fully experience an event. While there may be nothing to post, we have fully concentrated on a memory instead of scantily looking through a screen.
This talk relates to the study of leadership because it shows our desire of a shared social identification. Whenever we have travelled to some place, we want to make sure we have gotten a good shot of it because the memory has not happened if there is not a picture online. Although I have tried to limit myself, the artificial impulse we have culturally created is powerful. I have been to concerts where people have taken photos or filmed for nearly the entire time. In some famous art museums such as the MOMA, people will take pictures of paintings throughout their visit. Our cameras and phones have become an extension of us because sharing our own perspective and receiving praise gives us immense pleasure. The iPhone in our pocket allows us to create pictures that give us the praise we yearn for. This cultural practice is not how memories should always be captured. We are losing precious memories with friends, family, or even the earth because of this unhealthy obsession to capture what we see. While I cannot claim innocence from this obsession, times where I haven’t had my camera have allowed me to truly understand what I have seen with my eyes. During one summer, I hiked on the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland with friends and I forgot my phone in the car during the hike. Although I was at first annoyed since we had already walked 4 miles from the cars, I began to forget about it. I took in the sites on a beautiful summer day and enjoyed traversing over the rocks. I am glad that I could not take pictures of the scenery that afternoon. This accident allowed me to not seek pleasure in maintaining my status in a shared social identity, but to seek pleasure in authentic and personal moments with close friends.
Ted X Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAKzT6_ES8w
I watched a TED x Talk entitled: Why are drug prices so high? Investigating the outdated US patent system. Priti Krishtel, a lawyer and activist, talked about how the outdated patent system has allowed for legal loopholes for pharmaceutical companies. Krishtel spoke of how the patent system was created to incentivize innovation in the United States and further human progress. With extensions to various patents, companies have in Krishtel’s words a “time limited monopoly” on their product. For the medical community, this can have damaging effects as medication for diseases is something that an individual cannot live without. Thus, these pharmaceutical companies can increase their product to whatever value they see fit as there is no alternative for their customers. Krishtel’s argument is that this system must be modified so the public can afford medication for loved ones without going financially bankrupt. Her reforms include a limitation on patents, changing the financial motivation for the US patent office, increase public awareness, having more legal suits against these corporations, and having stronger oversight on how our health data is being distributed.
This talk is related to the study of leadership because it shows a model of followership that is defined as being a bystander. While these pharmaceutical companies are immensely powerful and rich, the public has accepted that medication and healthcare in the US is expensive. As a nation, the United States spends the most amount of money on healthcare among developed nations and yet there are millions of people without proper access to healthcare services. This bystander mentality can definitely be attributed to the cutthroat narrative of American business. America is a country where its citizens are mostly self-interested and focused on their own aspirations. The business side of the medical industry is currently operating on similar standards of ethics comparable to investment bankers. The only way change can occur is if more citizens are actively engaged in the political process. If Americans are willing to protest the absurd costs of their medication and pester the US congress, lawmakers will see the importance of amending the US patent system and the prices of common medication such as insulin. The battle to keep drug prices fair cannot be won by individuals such as Krishtel, but only by a substantial number of perceptive Americans.
Ted x Talk URL :
This article, Leadership in small-scale societies by Christopher von Rueden and Mark van Vugt, was very interesting and informative as it highlighted the differences between leadership in large-scale societies and small-scale societies. Many individuals would claim that humanity has progressed through the creation of large companies, organizations, and governments. While there is some truth to this, humans have adapted strategies and practices from small-scale societies that do not function well in large scale societies. An example referenced in the reading is the effect of masculine physical traits on important decisions such as voting for the next president of the United States. It is illogical that as a society we tend to favor certain candidates merely because of their height or how deep their voice is. It is a regular occurrence that highlights how evolutionary practices have carried over into our modern civilization.
If one examines large-scale societies, leaders are chosen not for their desire to ethically achieve goals with their followers, but rather to achieve their own self interests at all costs. It is surprisingly true that many of our leaders have narcissistic traits and are concerned with maintaining their own personal image. This article’s explanation is great because it articulates how the physical separation between leaders and followers has lost the accountability found in small-scale societies. This physical distance has had an effect on how we trust individuals part of large hierarchical structures such as financial banks. By having no face-to-face contact with many of their borrowers, banks were able to issue falsely rated mortgages until many Americans were forced to default on their credit causing an economic spiral known as the Financial Crisis of 2008. This moral impermissibility occurred because individual actors responsible were shielded as these shady loans required so little information from customers. With large-scale societies, humanity has come to accept that hyper-competition has replaced values of transparency and integrity found in small-scale societies.
A negative effect of large-scale societies is how the motivation behind leadership has changed. With small-scale societies, leaders were motivated to collectively improve their group’s way of life by contributing food, resources, or other services. These leaders still had some incentives whether that be taking more fish collected by hunters or establishing practices that would improve herding of their own cattle. In large-scale societies, the incentives of workers in modern hierarchical structures has exponentially grown. The salaries of certain CEO’s and upper management continue to grow into the hundreds of millions of dollars, while lower workers’ salaries are constant and fairly low. It is reasonable to assume that the community structure of Amazonian tribes could not function well in every society across the country; however, some values of egalitarianism could certainly be taken away. In large-scale societies, our desire for more wealth and status has outpaced desires for feelings of content and happiness found in small-scale societies.
In Rock, Paper, Scissors, I was interested by the game of chicken. A dangerous game where two individuals hold out until one loses. The author revealed the difficulty as there is not an apparent solution if two parties are unwilling to give up. The example of the Cuban Missile Crisis highlighted how even the brink of nuclear catastrophe rested on a game of chicken between President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev of the Soviet Union. In less dire instances, the author expressed the importance of having credible threats. If the chicken game is to be played on multiple occasions, it will no longer have a matrix with equal strategies and outcomes. The solution the author gave was fascinating because it was coordination and communication. I thought that this seemed simple for complex issues such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, I realized that the Cuban Missile Crisis was prevented because each leader backed down from an extremely dangerous place. It is ironic that a rational matrix can be used to explain such irrational decisions of two parties. This chicken game occurs because individuals wish to outperform each other. What is rather worrying about the chicken game is the fact that there is not a definitive solution for more than two parties. If three parties are in contention with each other, coordination and communication is harder to achieve. I found that this thought experiment was fascinating as I recognized it in my own life as well as in multiple historical examples.