Tag Archives: society

Never be a beast of burden

By: Jeremy Rick

Photo by Zach Barlow.
Photo by Zach Barlow.

The recent shootings at Santa Barbara Community College and Seattle Pacific University have sparked emotionally charged conversations concerning mental health care in the United States of America. The two gunmen, Elliot Rodger and Aaron Ybarra, displayed patterns of deep-seated anger and both received medical treatment that failed to deter them from violent actions.

So what caused these young men’s anger?

To quote Yoda, the fictional but legendary “Star Wars” Jedi, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” The motivating factor shared by Rodger and Ybarra was not anger, but fear. The medical treatment they received for their anger failed to prevent their violent actions because it addressed a symptom of their fear rather than the cause.

So what caused these young men’s fear?

I believe they feared the only true human freedom – conscious choice. They feared their choices didn’t matter. They feared that, regardless of their actions, they could never achieve their dreams. So they feared to dream. And when people fear to dream, dreams become nightmares. The lives we choose to create for ourselves are the realizations of our dreams. And if our dreams become warped into nightmares by fear, our lives will manifest their horrors.

So why did these young men fear the freedom of conscious choice? Well, it’s a convoluted issue, but here’s my take on the matter.

Humans are born into this world in a certain family, in a certain time, and in a certain place, none of which we have the freedom to choose. As children we are less conscious of our choices, acting intuitively and instinctively within the boundaries of freedom our parents or guardians establish.

When we mature and become more conscious of our choices, we can begin to identify the motivations behind our choices. But some people mature much more slowly in this regard than others. And some people fear the responsibility this consciousness brings, so they reject their freedom and surrender their will, which I believe is the commonality shared by Rodger and Ybarra.

After rejecting their freedom because they feared its existential responsibility, I believe Rodger and Ybarra became angry and resentful toward others who embrace and utilize their freedom. Their anger led to the hatred of other people, and then they expressed their hatred with violence.

So what is frightening about the responsibility of conscious choice?

Becoming conscious that each and every one of us possesses pure freedom, pure agency, pure subjectivity of choice within ourselves is like entering the door to a dark abyss. There is no light in the abyss, no guidance, no right and wrong, it is completely void of answers.

Once you have entered the abyss, you must provide your own light, guide yourself, choose what you believe to be right and wrong, and make your own answers. You must dream your own dream and create it within the void of the abyss that is your life.

But some people are too afraid, too weak to enter the abyss. Some people want others to give them answers. The sad thing is, many of the people answering the scared and the weak are actually manipulating them for selfish desires.

It’s like watching cattle being led to the slaughterhouse. And they go willingly because they cling to those answers as if they were objective truths, when in reality they have simply adopted somebody else’s subjectively created answers. They submit themselves to the wills of others. They make themselves pawns to be used and abused in other’s dreams. The result of this is that the individual never learns who he or she truly is. They never get to know their soul – their intuitive and instinctive compass within the abyss of pure freedom.

And the truth is, there are no answers in life. We can never know anything for certain. We can only perceive what we experience, express how it makes us feel and think, and be guided by the so-called ‘answers’ we establish for ourselves. In the words of the late beautiful soul, Maya Angelou, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Leaders should speak more often of this tragic human manipulation. Rather than simply herding the scared and the weak like human-cattle, leaders should guide them to the door of the abyss, to the place where they can begin guiding themselves, to the open range, so to speak.

Sadly, some leaders don’t want to free their human-cattle because that would leave them powerless to achieve their selfish agendas of vainglorious grandeur. Instead, they keep their beasts-of-burden locked in pens of fear, ensuring they don’t wander into the scary abyss, the open range full of dangerous predators, so that they may be worked to the bone until they are useless sacks of meat ready to be killed and devoured, momentarily quelling the insatiable hunger of their captors.

Nature is survival of the fittest, and cattle in pens are only fit to be used and eaten by humans on the outside. Real leaders are the people who break down the gates of these pens and free the human-cattle, releasing them into the open range where they might finally drop the “cattle” and learn what it means to be truly human.

The violent behavior of Rodger and Ybarra exemplified that of human-cattle locked up for too long. Rather than breaking free from their pens, the two young men went mad with fear, lashing out at those around them.

By treating the symptom that is anger rather than the cause that is fear, mental health care services are attempting to keep the human-cattle calm within their crowded pens. Mental health care should address the underlying issue that many people in America are afraid to dream because they feel as if their dreams don’t matter.

But our personal dreams are all that matter. If we abandon our dreams we are consenting to live in a world that we have no influence over, a world created by others and imposed upon us, a world in which we feel victimized, a world in which we feel oppressed, a world in which we are simply slaves to a system, a world we are aimlessly rebelling against, a world we do not feel a part of, a world we feel ostracized from, a world that is not our own.

Dream dreams of love and beauty, and create them in reality through your human freedom that is conscious choice.


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Letter from the Editor


Photo by Shaylee Vigil
Photo by Shaylee Vigil

We live in a world where there is a pill, shot or syrup to treat nearly every health problem we experience. Most members of American society rely at least somewhat on prescription and over-the-counter drugs to relieve anything from minor aches and pains to an inability to focus.

We see prescription drugs as a logical and safe way to solve our issues without realizing that they are, in fact, drugs.

American youth are not exempt from this. Children, teens, and young adults are prescribed a myriad of drugs such as amphetamines and antidepressants that can have both extremely negative and positive effects.

While there are situations in which prescription drugs can have a significant positive impact on one’s life, these chemicals also pose a danger and are not often utilized in appropriate ways.

Over the years doctors have become increasingly reliant on prescribing drugs as a first resort without considering possible causes and other treatments for health-related problems, which has contributed largely to our reliance as a society on these chemicals.

Holistic and naturopathic remedies are often looked down upon and not frequently considered as viable methods of treating medical issues, although human beings have been using natural methods as treatments for centuries.

Thousands of these problems come about as a result of unhealthy lifestyles, but rather than making healthier choices, we turn to drugs to provide us with a quick fix.

Many of the drugs prescribed to youth and young adults today have been used as medication for less than ten years, which means that their long-term effects cannot be studied yet. Scientists discover new things about drugs that have been used to treat diseases for much longer than that; I believe prescription medications should be used with caution partially for this reason. The possible negative effects that could arise in the future may be nothing we are equipped to deal with.

Another issue that arises with prescribing youth these types of medication is that these chemicals alter our body’s natural chemistry. Crucial developmental stages occur when we are children, and human beings continue to develop mentally and physically into their 20s.

While extensive research has been done on these subjects, there is no way to know for certain how these chemicals will affect the way our brains develop.

If children as young as 7 years old are being prescribed Adderall and Ritalin, and researchers are looking into the effects of these types of drugs on preschool-aged children, there are a huge number of ways these chemical changes could negatively affect or stunt their development.

Medication provides a much-needed solution to the slew of problems we experience, but it should be used sparingly and as a last resort. Chemical dependency and other negative side effects of these drugs are reason enough to proceed with caution when taking prescription medication. Our reliance on these types of drugs has the potential to cause many more problems than it does solutions.




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The rockin’ role of music in society

By Zach Barlow

Ed Chatterton said he knew he wanted to teach a class about “drugs, sex and rock and roll” when he was 18 after attending the 1970 Atlantic Pop Festival. Photo by Zach Barlow.

Edward Chatterton, 62, got his master’s degree in history at Western Washington University and is now a history instructor at Whatcom Community College. What separates Chatterton from most other teachers, however, are not the steps he took to get to where he is. Chatterton’s uniqueness lies in what he has done since then. Chatterton is the creator and instructor of the second-year honors history class titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll: The Role of Popular Music in Societal Change in The U.S. 1954-2013,” or History 295.

“My goal is that students will not take their music at face value but start looking at the deeper meaning, not just in music but how they experience it,” Chatterton said.

The class explores rock music in the 50s and the effect it had on American society and young Americans, as well as how rock music has changed over time and the rock music industry today.

History 295 isn’t like many 100 or survey-level classes that are held on campus, Chatterton said. “It’s a 295 level class which means there’s a certain type of student that’s targeted. We try to explore topics in greater depth and I strongly encourage more interactions between students both in and out of classroom,” Chatterton said.

The concept of an honors class may seem daunting to some, Chatterton said, but if students are interested in the class and are not honor students, or students with a GPA of 3.50 or above, Chatterton will still consider them for the course.

Jen Shore, 25, is a Whatcom student enrolled in the class.

“I was underneath the required GPA level but had taken a class with Mr. Chatterton before. He asked me if I would be interested in taking history 295. I wanted to be a part of the class but told him I didn’t think it was possible. Ed got me in anyway,” Shore said. “I think he’s just looking for people who can make meaningful contributions to his class.”

When Chatterton was 18 years old he attended the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival in Byron, Ga. The festival held performances by artist such as B.B. King, The Allman Brothers Band, and Jimi Hendrix.

The festival proved to be a monumental moment in Chatterton’s life, he said, and years later he would end up writing his master’s thesis on those experiences.

“Our relationship with music shapes who we are as a society. [Music] shapes interactions between cultural groups; music changes culture and culture changes music,” Chatterton said. “It’s only as I get older and start to look back at that cultural event [the Atlanta Pop Festival] that I start to wonder why most other historians have never heard of it,” Chatterton said.

Chatterton runs the class like an “honors seminar,” he said, where he lets the students themselves be a large part of the driving force behind the curriculum.

“There are no exams all quarter, the majority of your grade comes from your final research paper,” Chatterton said.

The class is focused largely on narrowing down a topic for the students’ research papers and class discussions or “think pieces,” he said.

“My objective with the research papers is to have no one on this campus know more about your topic than you do,” Chatterton said.

He said one of his favorite “think pieces” he does is playing his students the song “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd and asking them what they think the song is about. “It’s really cool to hear what people have to say,” he said.

Shore said after taking the class her musical experience has drastically changed.

“I never really grasped the concept that music was so reflective of society. I mean, I had an idea, but a lot of people take it for granted,” Shore said.

As for research papers this quarter, Chatterton said he was excited about the number of directions his students have chosen to go.

“One student is looking at the phenomenon that is ‘American Idol’ and how it’s changed pop culture, while another student is exploring the links between classical music and metal,” Chatterton said. There’s also a student exploring Grunge Rock in the early 90s in Seattle and another looking at the relationship between musicianship and IQ.

Along with research papers and “think pieces” the class discusses in depth the effects of rock music on racist and sexist cultural norms, he said.

“Part of what I’m seeing is how rock music explodes these racist ideas, and to some degree gender roles too,” Chatterton said. “Look at Chuck Berry, who was a middle-aged, lecherous black dude writing music for 15-year-old white girls.”

The class will also look throughout the quarter at the conflict that arises between rock music as an art form and rock music as an enterprise.

“One example is ‘Tutti Frutti’ sang by Little Richard; here you have this makeup-wearing, loud, screaming, scare-the-hell-out-of-white-people African American dude. Then you have Pat Boone, who is this lily-white dude. Who, later, re-recorded exactly the same song, same words, and same beat,” Chatterton said. “Pat Boone ‘sanitized’ ‘Tutti Frutti.’ The conflict is between sincere music that comes from the heart and music the industry is just trying to make money with.”

Another example Chatterton used is the song “Spend the Night Together” by the Rolling Stones. By the time that song got on the radio they had to change their lyrics to “I want to spend some time together.”

“They had to change their lyrics, but we all know what they meant,” Chatterton said.

Chatterton also compares and contrasts the marketability or “corporation control” of music from the mid-to late-1900s to now, he said.

“Right now something major is happening within the music industry. It’s being democratized through things like YouTube and Pandora,” Chatterton said. “Allen Stone and Macklemore have no record deal. They’re not packaged like some bands and I think that’s a great thing. It takes me back to the 60s when musicians were experimenting all over the place.”

However, Chatterton said he still doesn’t deny the power of marketability and the corporate grasp on some areas of modern music.

“If Katy Perry weighed 300 pounds and had buck teeth she probably wouldn’t be where she is today. Corporations will always try to package music to make a profit,” he said. But due to the internet, record companies can’t say, “‘this is what you’re going to buy’ anymore,” he added.

Another major topic the class covers is the British Invasion, or the popularization of British bands in America.

“The simple answer to what the British Invasion was is The Beatles,” Chatterton explained. “By the 60s our rock was very ‘sugar coated,’ whereas The Beatles had been influenced by our music in the 50s. So in a sense, The Beatles brought American music back to America through a British filter,” Chatterton said.

Chatterton admits that when The Beatles first gained popularity he wasn’t the biggest fan, but later in life he discovered the cultural significance of their music.

“When ‘Sgt. Pepper’ came out I was still into Hendrix, I thought that was ‘wimpo’ music,” Chatterton said. “Later, I did a research paper while I was studying for my masters and I got footage of kids from all around the world talking about what they thought about The Beatles. They all said the same thing, they loved it. The music transcended language. It transcended communism and capitalism,” Chatterton said. “I don’t think we’ll have cultural impact in music like that again.”

Chatterton said he was concerned with today’s music growing into more of an individualistic experience.

“In the 1900s music was more social,” Chatterton said. “Today you have 37 kids getting off a bus and each one of them have a set of ear buds in. There’s no common musical experience with that.” At rock festivals Chatterton said there are a number of bands playing on 4 or 5 different stages. People are then forced to pick and choose who they want to see, dividing themselves. It’s not the same as “if you’re one band and have 400,000 people digging you,” he said.

“The soundtrack to our lives is heard solo. Whether that’s good or bad I don’t know, but I do think that something is lost,” Chatterton said.

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