Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Stop Using Violence to Get Your Point Across

Unsurprisingly, there has been a spike in violence after the beginning of the Trumpocalypse. All jokes aside however, this post-election violence must be addressed by both big wig politicians and the public at large. The orange bag of skin who is set to be the leader of the free world even encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors. Nice.

Shamefully, America is no stranger to post-election violence.

The period between the 1820s and the onset of the Civil War was marked by a substantial increase in ethnic and religious diversity. This period was also notable for an increase in violent conflict surrounding politics and elections.

In a precursor of today’s politics, these clashes stemmed from heightened anxieties among native white Protestants about the consequences of Irish and German Catholic immigration for American identity and social harmony.[1]

It isn’t hard to see how contemporary events have come to mirror historical incidences of hate and ignorance-fueled violence against socially marginalized groups of people. Election Violence, however, isn’t limited to the nation’s early foundational days. Just a few decades ago, white supremacists tried to suppress the African-American and minority vote.

The threat—and repeated execution—of violence remained important features of efforts by white supremacists to suppress African American (and Latino) registration and voting all the way up until enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which strengthened federal voting rights protections and authorized federal monitoring of election rules in states with records of racial discrimination in voting.

Violence implemented by Trump supporters being encouraged by the man who has somehow become our country’s president-elect is not the only election violence the nation should be worried about. Liberals, after this election are collectively heartbroken after the results of the election and as several news outlets have covered, have taken to the streets to protest. There’s no issue with exercising your first amendment right, but the line has to be drawn when peaceful protesting turns into looting and vandalizing.

Using violence to get your point as cross is not only redundant, but simply takes away from the bigger picture a group of people may be trying to get across. If you want your cause to be taken seriously, bashing someone’s head in or looting under the pretense of a protest is definitely not the way to go. Who would be inclined to listen to you whine about something you don’t like after you behave like a Neanderthal?

These sentiments are echoed by the revered Bernie Sanders himself.

"Any person who is a Bernie Sanders supporter, please, do not in any way, shape or form engage in violence," the senator from Vermont said.[2]

The outrage from both the left and right is understandable. The extremes on both ends of the political spectrum are acting like underdeveloped children. This isn’t the way public discourse should take place among those with differing views on how the country should be run. Despite our differences, it’s imperative that we can understand one another’s views instead of quite literally trampling on other people simply for disagreeing with our own perspectives. Being displeased about election results is understandable, but please don’t hurt anyone simply because they don’t agree with you. No matter how right you may think you are.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Revitalize or Ruin

Many who call Boyle Heights home think that white art elitists are driving them out and ruining the authenticity of their section of town. In fact, this anti-gentrification sentiment has manifested itself as graffiti that quite literally says, “fuck white art”.[1]

Unless you want to see Los Angeles become a large scale version of skid row, it is imperative that we as a city, encourage revitalization projects. If we do nothing to modernize our city, crime will remain rampant and the streets will continue to stink of piss, feces, and vomit. Not a pretty picture, so we must do everything in our power to fight against this and instead of ruining our city, fight to reclaim and enrich it.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. I am not a native born Angeleno. I’m from thirty miles in the east, a transplant from one of LA’s many suburbs. Though one can argue that gentrification raises home prices and subsequently encourages this urban sprawl, I think its merits are beyond worth it.

Living in Los Angeles for the past few years has exposed me to Los Angeles’ best and worst. I can say with confidence that urban revitalization is key in making this city thrive and flourish and it’s all about addressing this issue the right way. Drawing from experience and a bit of research, I am going to point out the best ways to perceive and implement gentrification.

Art galleries and coffee shop aren’t ruining anyone’s neighborhoods. Last time I checked, they’re anything but. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they’re enriching them. As opposed to run down liquor stores and sketchy second-rate businesses, we can have fine art galleries and artisanal new age coffee shops. Besides, allowing urban renewal projects to take hold brings an incredible amount of benefits to communities.

First of all, gentrification or urban renewal literally revitalizes cities. Like we have seen on skid row, aggressive municipal renewal projects can provide housing to the neediest.

Urban renewal can provide disadvantaged city dwellers with decently affordable places to live. Boyle heights can learn a thing or two from Skid Row, where developments are projected to offer moderately priced residential units at a time where LA has been the nation’s least affordable housing market[2]. The influx of affordable housing, can give disadvantaged people a place to live while they better manage their day to day lives and work, most likely at jobs provided by gentrifying-businesses.

Secondly, we need to stop perceiving gentrification as a means of ‘ruining’ another culture or tradition. Instead, we should see it as a method of modernization and simply an alternative way of doing things that seeks to positively influence a community and increase prosperity. Stop thinking that hipsters bringing their cacti terrariums and ultra-indie music is toxic to urban culture.

Instead of vehemently opposing ideas that are different from our own, we should focus on the benefits gentrification can bring. The introduction and intermingling of groups that on the surface have nothing in common can spur creativity, financial stimulus, and elevate the community as a whole.

The thing is, looking at gentrification purely through the lens of a deliberate driving-out of the poor is wrong. Rather, we have to make an effort to think of urban redevelopment simply as market-driven social change. Looking at it more objectively can help us see how it benefits the communities it takes place in.

Don’t get me wrong though. It does have foreseeable downsides. Displacement and mixed social relations being mentionable. With that being said though, fixing these issues is as simple as changing the way we think and approach urban revitalization.

If I were a politician or land developer, I’d fight hardest for development plans to serve the best interests of the existing community at large. Or at least, to find a middle ground. Policy makers shouldn’t allow developers to build new projects if they don’t directly help a large portion of the existing population. Help, in this case should ideally come in the form of affordable housing and businesses that could provide jobs and services to the disadvantaged.

In order to address the argument against social mixing, it would be inherently beneficial simply to encourage tolerant attitudes towards one another. Also, the hipsters next door absolutely have to make an effort to have positive attitudes and better relations with the people who were there before them.

Urban revitalization and its ramifications are a complex issue. It’s not a black and white playing field. I understand there is a definite gray zone. However, what I am sure of is that we must consider its benefits before we condemn it because of its downsides. 


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Adderall & The Dangers of Dopamine Downregulation

As a college student, I know all too well what my peers and I alike think of this transitory period of our lives. This is a time where four years of our life are spent experimenting and are in essence, our formational years. Cycle upon cycle of hardcore studying, drinking, and experimentation are not unheard of. Many, doubtful of their own academic ability choose to indulge in a drug that is now notorious on college campuses everywhere: Adderall.

Prescribed most often for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Adderall is now one of the most often used drugs by college students who are desperately trying to study for their midterm and final examinations the night (and sometimes morning) before the test. Used responsibly or with a prescription, I don’t think Adderall is inherently detrimental. It’s when one is completely dependent on a substance that it can wreak havoc.

Casey Schwartz of The New York Times writes a great piece about Adderall addiction and the consequences that can unfold through substance abuse.

We know very little about what Adderall does over years of use, in and out of college, throughout all the experiences that constitute early adulthood. To date, there is almost no research on the long-term effects on humans of using Adderall. In a sense, then, we are the walking experiment, those of us around my age who first got involved with this drug in high school or college when it was suddenly everywhere and then did not manage to get off it for years afterward — if we got off it at all. We are living out what it might mean, both psychologically and neurologically, to take a powerful drug we do not need over long stretches of time. Sometimes I think of us as Generation Adderall.[1]

Adderall’s charm is that it makes you hyper-focused on the task at hand—especially and understandably useful when doing insane amounts of schoolwork. However, like any other controlled substance, it can do some major damage to your brain. Though I understand most people my age lack the foresight to be careful when using drugs, it’s imperative to know what you’re putting into your body and assess risk before you do anything even slightly questionable. Schwartz goes on to talk about the mechanisms behind Adderall addiction.

Amphetamines unleash dopamine along with norepinephrine, which rush through the brain’s synapses and increase levels of arousal, attention, vigilance and motivation. Dopamine, in fact, tends to feature in every experience that feels especially great, be it having sex or eating chocolate cake. It’s for this reason that dopamine is so heavily implicated in current models of addiction. As a person begins to overuse a substance, the brain — which craves homeostasis and fights for it — tries to compensate for all the extra dopamine by stripping out its own dopamine receptors. With the reduction of dopamine receptors, the person needs more and more of her favored substance to produce the euphoria it once offered her. The vanishing dopamine receptors also help explain the agony of withdrawal: Without that favored substance, a person is suddenly left with a brain whose capacity to experience reward is well below its natural levels1

The insidious side of Adderall dependence/addiction is hardly ever talked about and people need to be aware of the inherent risk they are taking when they over-indulge in study drugs or drugs in general. Ironically, when people get addicted to Adderall and don’t have access to their pills, some lose motivation and drive in school and by extension, life. In addition, those who are addicted talk about how they no longer have any passion or sense of reward after using Adderall for a number of years.

I could go on and on about this, but my point here is that drug addiction/withdrawal is not something to take lightly. It is very, very real and we as a society need to ascertain the risk vs. reward in using prescription stimulants and drugs as a whole. Just for the record, I am not some anti-drug far right asshole, but I do think it’s essential to be aware of the risk and take precautions in harm reduction. Doing well on a few exams isn’t worth binging on a drug that can destroy your dopamine receptors and suck the will to live out of you when used over a long period of time.