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Posts Tagged ‘United States

When the Cloud Bursts

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I realized there’s no reason for me to live on the East Coast after my Winter Break. If my interests alone could determine where I’d reside, I would be somewhere along the Pacific Ocean. Yet, as I drank in the 70 degree weather on New Year’s Day, I felt a pull back home. Home exists somewhere between Virginia and Pennsylvania. If our personal entities could be categorized into body, heart, soul, and mind, college has easily captured my mind and body. Heart seems like it will always reside with my family. And soul; I could not figure out where my soul was when I looked out over the ocean as the sun set.

I had an unexpected encounter in the West with something I have placed into my mind and heart; the homeless. It’s quite a luxury when you can devote certain energies to different activities in your life. I hadn’t realized that I assumed my vacation would lead me away from any scenarios that seemed to exist in my college life. My college life, as I said, consists of my mind and body. Through community service, heart finds its way into my personhood. Apparently heart has also found a way out of it as well. Via selfishness.

The several-hour plane ride to vacation-land is boring. Why? Well, our minds are not entertained as thoroughly as we please. And in this momentary lapse of our mind’s functioning, we lose any responsibilities we had hoped to rid as we embarked on our self-indulgent vacation. The jetlag -an indicator of how far you’re willing to escape your duties- dulls us to the point where on entering the new airport, we encounter a sense of adventure. Even among all the pavement, architecture, and pre-existing community, we prepare ourselves to conquer our novel surroundings.

 

Immediately after exam week, I found myself in San Diego as if my work had earned me the right to kick back and relax. And kick back and relax I did; even to the point where I found other people making decisions for me –an oddity for the college student!

 

The sun sets on the West Coast with the same color I witness on the East.

As if I knew something about the homeless, I noticed that San Diego’s distinguishing characteristic was that its homeless were pushed to the water. My dream home would exist on the beach, so why not California? And as I jocularly thought where I’d place my million dollar home, I stumbled upon the homeless. I hate to admit it, but my first (internal) reaction was, “What? I thought I left this back home!”

 

Maybe Philadelphia does a better job of keeping its scenic sights (limited in comparison to San Diego’s –the Pacific is a winner take all!) free from the reach of the homeless. But as soon as I saw rag-tagged camouflage and trash bags, my vacation-illusion snapped. As I handed loose change from my pocket to distanced eyes, Philadelphia flooded my soul.

 

Mercy Neighborhood Ministries

To and from Mercy Neighborhood Ministries I encounter some display of economic evolution. Where do the employees of $7.25 and welfare checks live? When I saw an individual pushing a shopping cart, my soul took me back to the West; my mind painted a beautiful image of the beach; my heart felt the familiarity of my family; my body warmed by the omnipresent, perfect sun.

 

When I recognized the familiar faces as I walked through MNM’s doors, I experienced the same inner tumult from having my vacation-cloud burst. No one here had a vacation. The employees of MNM sure as hell worked hard for a well-deserved vacation. Where did they take it? What kept me from falling into a state of complete guilt were the new faces. That’s where my soul is. The potential. The growth. New faces meant new relationships, new stories. I found myself playing the same Rummy card game from San Diego with Mr. Lee. I still lose, whether I am playing on the East or West Coast.

Written by Jack Viere

January 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm

A Crippling Digital Divide: Social Injustice Caused by Advertisements Part 2

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Today, America’s attitude towards consumption exacerbates the digital divide between higher income individuals and lower socio-economic groups. In Time’s Luxury Survey, research shows a surge in consumerism with those born between 1980 and 2000. “Because [18-27 year olds have] grown up in the age of dotcom billionaires, wealth and success are a given” (Time, 2008). At the turn of the century came the invention of the smartphone. In 1992, IBM’s Simon was a concept smartphone that initiated the trend of handheld devices (Schneidawind, 1992). While this technology evolved into the sleek, status-fulfilling must-have-item, a sense of inherent exigency began to dominate young adults. The category “looking stylish is important to feeling good about myself” had a 93% approval vote from young adults (Time, 2008). The smartphone’s timely introduction during the turn of the century has taken advantage of America’s new fashion; consumption.

What further deepens the digital divide is advertisers’ selection of who is depicted using what product. In another commercial, Boost Mobile promotes its Anthem 2.0 phone. Among others, rapper Young Jeezy advertises the new product by using lines of his material to promote the practicality of Boost Mobile’s deal offered sublimely through the thirty second clip (Boost Mobile, 2007). In this instance, Boost Mobile promotes their Anthem 2.0 to a young, pop-culture-fixed consumer population. With several rappers promoting their product, Boost Mobile attracts the attention of not only the youth, but a black population as well. In contrast with this specific commercial, Apple products are geared towards a white population. In a commercial promoting a Macintosh computer, actor Justin Long utilizes wit and charm to depict the sharp edge of Apple products (Apple, 2007). There is a drastic difference between these two commercials; it is easy to see who is to be using what brands of technology.

It is no coincidence, then, that the racial divide in America factors into the digital divide. Preying upon crude stereotypes, commercials depict more than who should be using what form of technology; they depict a financial gap between the races that is prevalent in today’s society. “The poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites was lower than the poverty rates for other racial groups…For Blacks, the poverty rate increased to 27.4 percent in 2010, up from 25.8 percent in 2009” (Census Bureau, 2010). This conveys that the white population is more financially sound to purchase expensive technologies such as the Macintosh computer in the Apple commercial. “Broken down by race and ethnicity, African American residents of rural areas and central cities had the lowest level of access to computers (6.4 and 10.4 percent), followed by central city Latinos (10.5 percent)” (Modarres, 2011). Computers allow for more than social networking, emails, and entertainment; the limitations of a smartphone. Computers enable a white population to a more expansive spread of technology, information, and internet use.

From this difference between the levels of access to the internet derives a social injustice. While there exists a digital divide between upper and lower socio-economic classes, there is a misconception that smartphones are closing the gap by allowing access to the internet.

“While there is a distinction between using a phone for communication and using it to access digital information, it should be equally obvious that having a smart phone is not the same as having a networked computer (laptop or desktop) that allows the user to create and manage a business or a community Web site” (ibid).

Non-white, typically poorer consumers are able to purchase cheap deals from companies like Boost Mobile and the issue of the digital divide appears to be solved. However, smartphones only allow for a limited access to the internet. Social networking does not equate to a full, complete use of the internet, and assuming that smartphones are bridging the digital divide is ethically harmful.

The social injustice, then, is the limited internet access poorer individuals have and the misperceptions of affluent individuals who believe that smartphones are a legitimate portal for a full access to the internet. This inhibits the poor from gaining better access to knowledge as well as cripples young peoples’ education.

“The most devastating consequences of the digital divide are the long-term effects it will have on today’s youth. Lacking access to technology and computer skills, an entire generation will be disempowered from realizing its full potential to contribute to society” (Koss, 2001).

Furthermore, the statistics from the US Census Bureau support Time’s concept of young adults’ intrinsic need for material goods. While more expensive computers would be more beneficial in an educational setting for today’s youth, cheaper, more attainable, and incomplete smartphones are fashionable and more captivating for young people to purchase. The media drives this social injustice by depicting who is to buy what products by feeding off of racial stereotypes. As a result, innovations, such as smartphones, are frequently built on top of misconceptions. Change, in this instance, is restrained by empowered advertisers. As Heraclitus once said, “Nothing endures but change.” The hold that advertisers have on their consumers disproves Heraclitus; people will buy what is trendy and ignore the social injustice that they create for themselves.

References

Apple. (2007, January 9). Get a mac-surgery [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci2D1ig4df4

Alverman, D. E. (2004). Media, Information Communication Technologies, and Youth Literacies: A

Cultural Studies Perspective. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(1), 78-83. doi:10.1177/0002764204267271

Boost Mobile. (2011, April 6). Working man [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZX6tHkW7xg

Boost Mobile. (2007, December 23). Anthem 2.0 rap commercial [Video file]. Video posted to

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnvYBtZNowU

Coupland, D. (1991). Generation x, tales for an accelerated culture. St. Martin’s Griffin.

Koss, F.A. (2001). Children Falling into the Digital Divide. Journal Of International Affairs, 55(1), 75.

LaGesse, D. (2001). So many gadgets and so little time. U.S. News & World Report, 130(2), 36.

Modarres, A. (2011). Beyond the digital divide. National Civic Review, 100(3), 4-7. doi10.1002/ncr.20069

Pain. S. (2006). The phone that roared. New Scientist. 190(2550).

Schneidawind, J. (1992). Big blue unveliling. USA Today.

The Luxury Survey. (Cover story). (2008). Time, 17158-59

U.S. Census Bureau. (2009, October). Current population survey, reported internet usage for

households, by selected householder. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2009.html

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, September). Income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the united

states: 2010. Retrieved December 3, 2011, from http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-239.pdf

35% of American Adults Own a Smartphone. (2011, July 11). PewResearchCenter Publications. Retrieved

December 3, 2011, from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2054/smartphone-ownership-demographics-iphone-blackberry-android

Written by Jack Viere

December 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

Gays: Not on the Radar

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A faithful and Welcoming Church. Not Pop-Culture’s way of describing the Roman Catholic Church. Especially of late. Yet, this unpopularity, bashing of the Church through the media has kept me faithful all the more. There’s no answer to your why. I just have been; it’s what I grew up with, it’s what feels comfortable. However, just like any other random believer, I somehow feel freely entitled to take the brunt end of the recent occurrences in the past year or so, even though I had no direct affiliation…

Unity Week  had me wondering; how does the Catholic college community deal with the reality of a multicultural student population (and even more diverse neighborhood; Philadelphia?) A lot of people buy into the sharp criticisms of the New York Times and many others. Even while people say (falsely) what the Church says, why not hear from someone within the Church? Who better than a strong advocate for Ad Hoc Committee for the Religious Liberty, Retired Archbishop of Brooklyn Joseph Michael Sullivan S.J.?

“This ad hoc committee aims to address the increasing threats to religious liberty in our society so that the Church’s mission may advance unimpeded and the rights of believers of any religious persuasion or none may be respected.” 

Through his charismatic personality and think Brooklyn accent, I witnessed a Catholic testimony firsthand. Repeatedly throughout the question-answer portion of the seminar, many people indirectly asked if he was speaking objectively for the whole Church. While he never directly answered, he did mention that Gaudium et Spes gave the green light for the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee without permission handed directly down from the Vatican. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the committee on its own. So I took that as an implication that he spoke both officially and unofficially. It wasn’t as if he was on tour, spreading this idea from the Vatican. I find that too often, both Catholics and non-Catholics want to hear the rarely-used word infallible. With that ability given only to the Bishop of Rome, people think, “Oh wait, this is a black and white concept. Let me see what the Church says…I don’t agree. Therefore, I don’t agree with the Church.”

That very mindset was what Bishop Sullivan aimed to clarify. That within the context of the gay/lesbian community in the United States. We see a passage of condemned sodomites and somehow immediately apply that to modern day gays. (I’ll come back to why I say modern in a bit.) Ad Hoc is the fluid medium that Bishop Sullivan has opened the dialogue with the gay community. Two things Bishop Sullivan addressed: a little bit of WWJD and what this dialogue currently looks like and what the retired bishops hopes it will continue to become.

Going back a little before Jesus’ time to say the Book of Leviticus, there existed the Holiness Code. Here’s a little lesson on the book of the Bible I skipped through when I read straight through Genesis and Exodus because it loses the plot of the Israelites for some time due to this law formation. Any mentioning of something similar to homosexuality was located among the teachings on Yom Kippur and blood sacrifices. More specifically, the words “a man could not lie with a man as a woman” fitted between the law that you cannot sacrifice children to a god called Molech and a law against bestiality. (Leviticus 18: 21-23.)

If anything, you can at least agree with Bishop Sullivan and me that there’s a denial of the person’s humanity in the context above. Not to deride the Jewish teachings, but homosexuality has been elevated from its position between holidays and sacrifices. We don’t celebrate the latter today very much, especially child sacrifices. This implicates that the social teachings of Leviticus were set in a different historical context and were set before a different people. (Calm down all ye literalists! This isn’t to suggest that ever teaching from Leviticus loses its validity! I’m not finished making my point.)

Furthermore, the homosexuality that was addressed in Biblical times closely revolved around prostitution. Another Jesuit at the seminar claimed that in his close reviewing of the Biblical context on homosexuality, a current work in progress, that Leviticus, formulating Jesus’ human understanding of homosexuality did not recognize the humanity of a different definition of homosexuality. That’s because it revolved around prostitution, a completely separate violation of human dignity. Yet, Jesus kicked it with the wrong crowd. Wasn’t Mary Magdalene a prostitute? So even when there’s this strong language condemning sodomites, is it really directed towards the gay couples that live prominently in our society? (as opposed to prostitution alone)

Bishop Sullivan acknowledge that homosexuality was a “discovering of one’s orientation.” Gradualism. Something our world is lacking. In its place we have this strong need to have information flashed at us. Some of it true. Some of it not true. This quickened world we live in does not allow us to make concrete relationships from which we can listen compassionately; trust comes from listening to individuals tell their story. It is therefore a necessity to listen if we are to be Christ-like, Dalai Lama-like via compassion. In order to listen, we must “know the person; better relationships [come from] knowing people,” the Bishop said. To create freedom, we need to be open. Gays cannot be pushed to secrecy in their solitude.  “A church where you’re known is a church that is hospitable.”

Bishop Sullivan’s continuation of his Ad Hoc activities included action beginning in the parishes. He thought a “bottom-up” approach is most appropriate in order to establish a dialogue with the gay community. I too agree that it starts on an individual level to make a difference in relationships.

Written by Jack Viere

November 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm